rafik hariri 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
New tests corroborate the theory that former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a massive suicide truck bomb, investigators said in a new report Monday.
Evidence found at the scene of the blast also included a tooth, probably of the bomber, which featured an unspecified "distinguishing mark" on its crown suggesting he may not have been from Lebanon, the report said.
The document, the third from a team led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, reported progress in the probe of the February 14, 2005 explosion that killed Hariri and 22 others in downtown Beirut. His supporters blamed Syria, which has denied any role.
The UN Security Council received the report Monday and a copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
The killing provoked such an international outcry that Syria ultimately withdrew thousands of its troops from Lebanon in April 2005, ending nearly three decades of military dominance of the country.
According to the report, Syria has been generally cooperative with the probe, though the team did raise questions about information provided by Syrian officials in several interviews. It said investigators found it necessary to corroborate the answers given by those interview subjects, whose cooperation was "variable."
Hariri was killed by a giant blast that targeted his convoy as it wound through Beirut.
Investigators had suspected for some time that Hariri was killed by a suicide bomb packed into a Mitsubishi minivan whose remnants were found at the scene.
According to the report, new tests corroborate the theory that a man either inside or just in front of the van detonated the bomb, which was probably close to 1,800 kilograms (3,960 pounds).
Investigators have found 32 pieces of remains from the person believed to be the attacker, who was likely between 20-25 years old, the report said.
Brammertz' predecessor as chief of the investigation, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, had said the killing's complexity suggested the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role in Hariri's assassination. As he had done previously, Brammertz again shied away from making any such claims.
Still, Brammertz said evidence suggested that the team planning Hariri's assassination had him under surveillance. At one point, the attackers either tried to kill Hariri or carried out a rehearsal.
As with his previous reports, Brammertz' latest was largely technical and absent of sweeping theories or speculation. That is starkly different from Mehlis, whose updates read like detective novels and revealed tantalizing bits of evidence.