October 12, 2005

Syrian Minister 'Commits Suicide', Foul Play Suspected

general_ghazi_kanaan.gifSyria's Interior Minister has reportedly 'committed suicide', Syrian state controlled media reports today. The story is fishy enough that many mainstream news outlets are making sure to put quotes around "committed suicide".

General Ghazi Kanaan was the former head of Syria's military intelligence in occupied Lebanon. Syrian intelligence agents or their proxies are suspected in the car-bombing assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Kanaan's 'suicide' comes just prior to the official release of a UN report which is said to implicate Syria. Kanaan has long been a leading suspect in the assassination.

The U.S. has also frozen Kanaan's assets because of his role in helping Syria support known terrorist groups.

As Wunderkraut rightly points out, Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad told CNN that if a Syrian was behind Hariri's assassination, that person would be deemed 'a traitor':

But, he said, if the U.N. probe concluded that Syrians were involved, then they would be regarded as traitors and should be charged with treason and face punishment, either through the Syrian judicial process or by an international court.
An international court? Right. We all know what happens to traitors in Syria.

DEBKA, of course, finds Kanaan's death a little too coincidental for their tastes:

Its occurrence hours before Assad was to go on the air for a landmark CNN interview suggests the president may have been preparing to sacrifice close aides to mute Washington’s pressure on his own policies.
So, even if this was a 'suicide', it is possible that this was a preventative move on Kanaan's part. It is far better to go quickly at your own hands, then undergo the humiliation of a Baathist show trial the end of which is certain.

Ya Libnan, an online Lebanese news site says of a radio interview with Kanaan yesterday:

The interview sounded more like a speech than a question and answer session. He sounded as if he was reading all what he was saying . His last sentence was: I will not call any other channel with this information and named all the Lebanese channels. He went on to say " this is the last you will hear from me" I will not be calling again.

The news about his suicide will be a big blow to the UN investigating commission, since he must have know a lot about what went on in Lebanon and who is behind Hariri's assassination. Some political analysts are speculating that Kannan was killed to use him as the scapegoat and to hide the truth about who really killed Hariri.

The article cites local TV as their source of information. This is raising more than a few eyebrows in Lebanon.

Times UK:

The Syrian Interior Minister has apparently killed himself in his Damascus office, days before a UN report on the assassination of a senior Lebanese politician.

Ghazi Kanaan, 63, was the head of Syria's military intelligence in Lebanon between 1982 and 2003 and had enormous influence over the running of Syria's small neighbouring country. He was promoted to the job of Interior Minister a year ago.

His death comes not long after a UN team investigating the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, interviewed Kanaan and a number of Syrian figures. The UN report is due out in two weeks' time.

The car bombing of Hariri in Beirut on February 14 led to a popular uprising in Lebanon, nicknamed the Cedar Revolution, as many Lebanese protested about Syria's stranglehold over its internal politics.

Hariri, a billionaire businessman, was an opponent of the extent of Syrian influence in government. Thanks to the protests and international pressure, Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April for the first time since the end of the civil war.

Hours before he died, Kenaan contacted a Lebanese radio station and gave it a statement defending Syria's role in the Lebanon. He ended with the words: "I believe this is the last statement that I could make." He asked the interviewer to pass his comments to other broadcast media.

Syria and its allies in Lebanon have been blamed by many for masterminding the Hariri murder, something Damascus has denied.

In June, the US Government froze Kanaan’s assets for his alleged involvement in corruption and support for terrorism.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 08:51 AM | Comments |