A prominent Lebanese security official is among the dead in a car bombing in the capital Beirut that has killed at least eight people and wounded up to 80 others.
Wissam al-Hassan, head of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), was the brain behind uncovering a recent bomb plot that led to the arrest of Michel Samaha, a Lebanese politician close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of trying to help smuggle explosives into Lebanon.
The ISF was also deeply involved in seeking the arrest of those responsible for a host of attacks and assassinations between 2005 and 2008, starting with the murder of Rafiq Hariri.
Friday’s rush-hour car bombing has raised fears of renewed sectarian violence in a country still scarred from a long civil war. Al-Hassan was seen as close to Saad Hariri, leader of the March 14 alliance and a son of the former prime minister.
“The exact details of how this explosion killed Wissam al-Hassan are still unclear,” Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said.
“Wissam al-Hassan is a very prominent figure in Lebanon. He played a key role in pursuing the killers of Rafiq al-Hariri, and one of his most recent achievements is the capturing and arrest of Michel Samaha.
“He is a very controversial figure for the March 8 alliance. He was a key figure in supporting the armed opposition in Syria, and the March 14 alliance is going to take this explosion much more seriously.
“This killing will stir a lot of tensions.”