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A pro-Syrian group that purportedly killed a top Lebanese editor has threatened to kill the next head of the UN commission investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
An-Nahar newspaper said it had received a statement signed by "The Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom in al-Sham," the group that claimed to have killed the paper's general manager Gibran Tueni with a car bomb on Dec. 12. Al-Sham is the Arabic term for the historical region that encompassed Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The statement said Detlev Mehlis, who stepped down this month as chairman of the UN commission, was lucky to escape death. Mehlis had concluded that Syria was involved in the killing of Hariri, who was slain by a massive truck bomb in Beirut in February. Syria denies the charge.
"Mehlis was able to slip out of our hands a moment before it was too late when he chose to resign because he understood the message and realized that if he did not do that, his end would be wretched like the end of all traitors who betray Arabs and Islam," the statement said.
An-Nahar published the full text of the statement, but did not say why it believed it to be authentic or how it had been received. When The Associated Press called the paper's offices, staff said that the person who could answer such questions was not immediately available.
The statement described Mehlis, a German prosecutor, as a "filthy infidel" who had politicized the investigation to implicate Syria. It warned Mehlis's successor, who has not been appointed, not to come to the same conclusions.
"We warn him of the dangers of politicizing (the investigation) and call on him to announce, according to what the commission has found, that Syria is innocent of the blood of Hariri," the statement said.
The statement ended with an ominous Arabic saying: "He who has given advance warning is excused."
The alleged authors of the statement had not been heard of until they claimed responsibility for Tueni's killing. Tueni, who was also a member of parliament, was a leader of the campaign to remove Syria's influence from Lebanon.
Mehlis has said he received threats during his work in Lebanon. When he moved around the country, he was always heavily guarded.