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UN Investigator says Lebanese prime minister was assassinated by criminal network

UNITED NATIONS: Former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by a criminal network that is linked to some other terrorist attacks in Lebanon, the chief investigator said.

In his first report to the U.N. Security Council, Daniel Bellemare said the first priority of the investigating commission he heads is to gather more evidence about the “Hariri Network,” its scope, the identity of all its participants, their role in other attacks and links with people outside the network.

The former Canadian prosecutor said evidence indicates the network existed before his assassination, that it conducted surveillance of the former premier, and that at least part of the network continued to operate after he was killed along with 22 others in a bombing in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005.

Bellemare said Syria’s cooperation with the commission “continues to be generally satisfactory.”

“The commission can now confirm, on the basis of available evidence, that a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the assassination of Rafik Hariri and that this criminal network — the ‘Hariri Network‘ — or parts thereof are linked to some of the other cases within the commission’s mandate,” Bellemare said.

The Commission has been providing technical assistance to Lebanese authorities in 20 other “terrorist attacks” that have killed 61 people and injured at least 494 others, he said. Eleven attacks have targeted politicians, journalists and security officials and nine involve bombings in public places.

The chief investigator said the commission also has pursued its investigation into the identification of the suicide bomber.

Bellemare said forensic information on the bomber’s origin, characteristics and movements has been compared to entry-exit records in Lebanon “as well as the missing persons files of various countries to generate leads on the possible identity of the bomber.”

“Based on these leads, DNA profiling is being conducted to further assist the identification,” he said.

In previous reports, former chief investigator Serge Brammertz said the suspected suicide bomber did not spend his youth in Lebanon but spent his last two or three months in the country. To determine the man’s origins, the commission collected 112 soil and water samples from 28 locations in Syria and Lebanon, and 26 samples from locations in other countries which were not identified.

Based on preliminary results, Brammertz said, the commission’s experts believe the man was probably between 20 and 25 years old, with short dark hair, and lived in an urban environment for the first 10 years of his life and in a rural environment during the last 10 years of his life.

The commission also established “a limited number of countries where the suicide bomber could come from,” Brammertz said.

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"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

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