UN: New lead in Hariri probe

Investigator: Tooth could lead to identity of bomber in assassination of former Lebanese PM.

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September 29, 2006 22:41
2 minute read.

 
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A tooth discovered at the crime scene could help identity the man in his 20s who most likely detonated the bomb that killed Lebanon's former prime minister Rafi Hariri, chief UN investigator Serge Brammertz said Friday. The tooth found in the area where a massive suicide truck bomb killed Hariri and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005 in central Beirut "is extremely important" because "it's much more the business card of a person than other human remains," he said. "Based on a tooth, you can not only identify the age of somebody but ... also the region of origin," Brammertz told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council. "If we can identify his identity, of course we make a very important step." That is because his identity "can be an extremely important lead to identify those persons" who asked or forced him to carry out the bombing, he said. The chief investigator said further forensic tests are taking place to possibly establish the region of origin of the man, estimated to be between 20 and 25, and his DNA is being compared with existing DNA databases in several countries. In his report to the council earlier this week, Brammertz said a tooth and 27 body parts found at the crime scene during the investigation soon after the assassination belonged to the same man. Another complete tooth was discovered during recent investigations of the crime scene in June, along with five pieces of human remains that matched the DNA of the 27 other body parts, he said. The first tooth had "a distinguishing mark to the surface of the crown, which is a feature rarely seen among people from Lebanon," Brammertz said, leading investigators to believe the man came from outside Lebanon. Brammertz reiterated to the council Friday what his report said Monday: Investigators have made progress and are continuing 20 major investigations and analysis projects. These include investigations of the crime scene and Hariri's convoy, interviews with key witnesses and sensitive sources, and extensive analysis of telecommunications. Asked by a reporter how sure he was that his team would find the culprits, Brammertz replied, "We are really doing everything we can as professionals to find the truth." "If I was personally not convinced that there was a chance to discover the truth, I don't think that I would ask to so many people to work with me in a not always very easy environment. I'm not pessimistic, but I'm not able to promise anything." Brammertz' team is also providing technical assistance to the Lebanese government in the investigation of 14 other bombings in Lebanon since Oct. 1, 2004. As a result of work done during the past three months, he said the investigating commission he heads "has strengthened its preliminary conclusion that the 14 cases were not commissioned and executed by 14 disparate and unconnected persons or groups with separate motives." The International Investigating Commission "anticipates that further links between the cases will become evident upon further collection of information and evidence," Brammertz told the Security Council. Afterwards, he stressed to reporters that "it is very important to clarify if there are links." This is being done by comparing forensic data, fingerprints, DNA found on crime scenes and analyzing telephone communications, Brammertz said.

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