Lebanon probes blast near ex-PM Hariri’s convoy

The attack in the eastern Bekaa Valley came as Lebanon's anti-government protest movement ramped up.

al-monitor Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri speaks after meeting with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, Nov. 7, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir.

Jun 29, 2020

Lebanese security forces are investigating an explosion earlier this month near the motorcade of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, his office said Sunday. 

The attack, which injured no one, reportedly took place in a mountainous part of the country’s eastern Bekaa Valley as Hariri was returning from a visit with a senior Sunni cleric. Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath reported that security forces found the remnants of the blast roughly 500 meters from Hariri’s 30-vehicle convoy. 

In a statement Sunday, Hariri’s office said the reports were “generally correct” and explained that he didn’t initially comment to avoid exacerbating sectarian tensions. 

"Since the convoy did not get exposed to any attack … [Hariri's] decision was to keep it secret and await the results of the relevant security forces," his office said in a tweet. 

Hariri's father, former Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, died in a truck bombing in Beirut in 2005. A United Nations special tribunal tried several Hezbollah members in absentia for the assassination. The Shia militia group denies involvement.

The attack on Hariri’s convoy comes as Lebanon is mired in sectarian protests over government corruption and economic mismanagement. In October, Hariri submitted his resignation after two weeks of anti-government protests that saw hundreds of thousands call for his removal.

The mass demonstrations faded in March due to Lebanon's coronavirus outbreak but have picked up steam in recent weeks. On Friday, security forces fired tear gas to disperse crowds as protesters cut major roads across the country and demanded the release of a group arrested on charges of vandalism. 

With the Lebanese pound losing some 75% of its value on the parallel market since October, the small Mediterranean country is experiencing its worst financial crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

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