On Oct. 19, Lebanese Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan was assassinated on a narrow side street near Sassine Square in downtown Beirut. The attack involved the detonation of a moderately sized vehicle-borne improvised explosive device as al-Hassan’s car passed by the vehicle in which the device was hidden. The explosion killed not only al-Hassan and his driver but also six other people and wounded about 90 more.
Al-Hassan, the intelligence chief for Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, had been a marked man for some time prior to his death. He was the security chief for former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005 in an attack that most believe was conducted by the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon.
But more recently, as Stratfor noted in February 2012, al-Hassan played a critical role channeling support from the Gulf states and the West to the Syrian rebels through Lebanon. This involved smuggling arms from Lebanon to Syria destined for opposition forces, providing a haven for Syrian defectors in Lebanon and allowing Syrian rebels to use Lebanese territory as a staging ground for attacks in Syria. His part in the Syrian opposition movement clearly made him a prime target for Syrian intelligence and indeed the Syrian regime had previously attempted to assassinate al-Hassan — one such plot was thwarted in early 2012 by Jordanian intelligence, which caught wind of the plot and passed a warning to Lebanese authorities.
Al-Hassan was doing dangerous work in a dangerous place, and he knew he was a marked man. His former boss had been assassinated and there were plots afoot to kill him, too. Due to the manner in which al-Hariri was assassinated, al-Hassan decided to employ a very different style of security — low-profile security instead of the high-profile measures employed by al-Hariri — and yet he was killed despite his different approach.
“Lebanon: Lessons from Two Assassinationsis republished with permission of Stratfor.”