Geagea says he escaped assassination attempt

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that he escaped an assassination attempt on Wednesday, warning political killings might resume in Lebanon. Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for an in-depth investigation into the incident.

"Shots were fired by snipers [at me] and it seems that there was more than one [gunman],” Geagea said during a press conference, in reference to the gunfire that targeted his Maarab residence earlier on Wednesday.

"I was strolling with the [bodyguards] and noticed a beautiful flower so I bent down to pick it. Then I heard two loud shots… and stayed down for a while,” Geagea said.

Geagea added that bullets punctured the wall of his residence while he was walking outside accompanied by bodyguards.

The LF leader drew parallels between the incident and the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, adding that the event fell within the context of the series of assassinations that plagued the country “for 40 years.”

“There are similarities between the two assassination attempts - regardless of the differences in characters and circumstances,” Geagea said, adding: “For 40 years they [used] assassinations to respond to [our political stances].”

He added that the perpetrators were professional, saying that he is “awaiting the results of the investigation” into the incident.

“I do not accuse any particular group [of involvement in the shooting incident]."

The LF leader also said that Lebanese security forces were cooperative “and immediately informed [Lebanese] army chief [Jean Kahwaji] about the incident [and] sent an investigative team.”

Geagea also voiced his concern that political assassinations would resume in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the March 14 General Secretariat called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi to transfer the shooting attempt to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a UN-backed court investigating the Hariri murder.

“[Mikati and Qortbawi should] take the necessary measures to transfer the investigation into [Geagea’s] murder [attempt] to the STL,” a statement issued by the alliance said.

The secretariat also said that the “assassination attempt” against Geagea earlier in the day “coincided with STL President Judge Sir David Baragwanath’s visit to Beirut.”

“This timing shows that the [group responsible for the shooting in Maarab] is challenging not only Lebanese security, but also international justice.”

Both President Michel Sleiman and the prime minister called for an in-depth investigation into Wednesday's incident.

Sleiman telephoned Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Lebanese army chief Jean Kahwaji and called for “intensifying investigations to reveal and detain [the perpetrators of the shooting attack],” the National News Agency reported.

Mikati said in remarks published on Thursday that he asked judges to “immediately start working on revealing the circumstances of the assassination attempt against Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.”

The PM also told An-Nahar newspaper that he called Geagea by phone following the incident and reassured him that “the security forces are following up on the issue.”

-NOW Lebanon