July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said four suspects were named in an indictment filed by a United Nations tribunal investigating the killing of former premier Rafiq Hariri.
Arrest warrants were issued for Lebanese citizens Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hassan Oneisseh and Assad Sabra, Charbel said in a phone interview today. He didn’t provide further information about the suspects. Lebanon’s LBC news channel and other local media outlets had identified the four men yesterday, when the indictment was delivered by court officials to Lebanon’s attorney general. Its contents haven’t been publicly disclosed.
Badreddine and Ayyash are both members of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement, one of the main backers of the government formed last month by Najib Mikati, according to LBC. Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim el-Moussawi wasn’t available for comment today. The Shiite group’s Al Manar television channel said the indictment proves that the investigation and tribunal are politicized. The affiliation of the other two suspects was not clear.
Hezbollah and its allies brought down the U.S.-backed government of Rafiq’s son Saad Hariri in January by walking out of the Cabinet in protest at government support for the UN tribunal.
Hezbollah and its backer Syria deny any connection with Hariri’s killing. The Shiite movement’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, last year threatened reprisals against anyone who tried to arrest members of his group in connection with the case. The tribunal’s investigators were attacked at a clinic in a southern suburb of Beirut in October while collecting information.
Badreddine is a Hezbollah military commander and brother- in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, who was blamed for the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, and who died in a car-bomb in Syria in 2008, LBC said.
The UN tribunal, based in the Netherlands, said yesterday that it won’t comment on the identity of anyone named in the indictment, to help Lebanese authorities fulfil their obligation to arrest the accused within a month.
Rafiq Hariri was killed along with 22 others by a roadside bomb in Beirut in 2005. His death led to street protests by millions of Lebanese that forced Syrian troops to quit the country after almost three decades.
Hezbollah is backed by Iran as well as Syria, and classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel. It won popularity in Lebanon by helping to force Israel’s army to withdraw from the country in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation, and fighting the Jewish state again in a monthlong war in 2006.
--Editors: Ben Holland, Karl Maier.
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