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World & Nation

Rafik Hariri assassination suspects’ information released

The United Nations-backed international tribunal set up to bring to justice those responsible for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Friday published the identities, photographs and background information of four suspects named in the June indictment.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon posted photographs and detailed information on its website about the personal history of the four suspects — identified as Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra — all of them close associates of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s politically powerful Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militant group.

The men range in age from 36 to 50. The published information included the names of their parents, their last known addresses and the numbers of their passports or other official documents. Among listed charges against them are conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and being an accomplice to the felony of premeditated homicide by using explosive materials.

Analysts said the move by the tribunal could help identify the men, who have long disappeared from public view, possibly escaping to Iran. But the suspects’ names were already widely reported in Lebanese media when the indictment was confirmed June 28.

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The tribunal’s decision to confirm the names, some analysts said, could heighten sectarian and political tensions in Lebanon.

Three of the accused are residents of the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut, and the fourth is a resident of mainly Shiite south Lebanon. The statement did not mention Hezbollah, but it has been widely reported that the four men are affiliated with the group. Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has promised to defy international authorities’ demand that the men be handed over.

The court’s confirmation of the suspects’ names marks the latest setback for Hezbollah, which is increasingly projecting an image of itself as heeding Iranian interests rather than being an Arab nationalist organization. Hezbollah has also proclaimed its staunch support for Syria’s embattled leader, Bashar Assad, whose troops are engaged in a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Hezbollah has denounced the tribunal as a U.S. and Israeli conspiracy and has consistently denied any involvement in the spectacular assassination of ex-premier Hariri on the Beirut waterfront in February 2005. The pro-Western construction magnate was killed along with 21 others when a massive truck bomb exploded near his motorcade.

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Sandels is a special correspondent


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