ADDOUSSIEH, Lebanon (AP) — A outstanding Lebanese writer and vocal critic of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group was discovered shot lifeless in his automotive on Thursday morning, a brazen killing that sparked fears of a return to political violence on this nation gripped by social and financial upheaval.
The physique of 58-year-old Lokman Slim, a longtime Shiite political activist and researcher, was slumped over on the passenger seat with a number of wounds from gunshots fired at shut vary, safety and forensic officers stated.
He had been lacking for hours since late Wednesday and his household posted social media messages on the lookout for him.
To his associates, Slim was a fearless critic of Lebanon’s highly effective politicians, Hezbollah and its allies Iran and Syria, and a serious useful resource on the historical past of Lebanon’s civil struggle. His killing raised fears that Lebanon’s political tensions might flip into a brand new wave of assassinations.
Critics, nevertheless, accused Slim of sowing sedition, undermining nationwide unity and being a Zionist due to his criticisms of Hezbollah.
“He was carrying the weight of this country on his shoulder,” his sister Rasha al-Ameer advised reporters at their home after the information of the killing broke. She stated she has no religion in native investigations and that the household would perform its personal non-public forensic probe.
“Up until today in the history of Lebanon, all investigations have led to a dead end,” she advised reporters. His spouse, Monika Borgmann, standing subsequent to al-Ameer, known as for a world probe. “This killer has to be punished,” Borgmann stated.
Security forces discovered Slim’s automotive on a rural highway near the southern village of Addoussieh, in Sidon province. He was visiting associates in a southern village and was heading again to Beirut within the night.
Afif Khafajeh, a coroner who inspected Slim’s physique, stated there have been six bullets in Slim’s physique — three within the head, one within the chest and one within the again. Blood was splattered over the passenger automotive seat.
A safety official on the scene stated Slim’s ID, cellphone and gun had been lacking. The officers spoke on situation of anonymity according to rules. His cellphone was later discovered.
Lebanon has a historical past of political crimes and violence. With rising rigidity amid deepening political dispute and financial disaster, officers have warned of a return of violence and assassinations.
Earlier, Slim’s spouse and sister had posted on social media that he had not answered his cellphone for hours. Al-Ameer stated he left this associates’ home after eight pm. The household started to fret when two hours later he nonetheless wasn’t again home.
Al-Ameer hinted that Hezbollah was behind the killing, with out naming the group, including that it’s recognized who controls the realm the place her brother was discovered lifeless. “Killing for them is a habit,” she said. Hezbollah and its allies dominate the area in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah condemned Slim’s killing, calling for a swift investigation. It also urged security agencies to combat crimes it said have spread around Lebanon and which have been “exploited politically and by the media at the expense of security and domestic stability” — a jab at their critics.
Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi, speaking to local TV station MTV, called it a “horrific crime.” Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab deplored the “heinous crime” and vowed a speedy investigation.
But in Lebanon, perpetrators of political violence or corruption are almost by no means recognized or prosecuted. An investigation into the large explosion within the Beirut port that killed 211 folks and disfigured the capital final August nonetheless has not uncovered what induced it and who is responsible.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the killing, calling it “cowardly and unacceptable to resort to violence, threats, and intimidation as a means of subverting the rule of law or suppressing freedom of expression and civic activism.” He urged Lebanese officials to act quickly to bring those response to justice.
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea said Slim spoke publicly and privately about threats made against his life but continued his work, pushing for justice, accountability and rule of law in Lebanon. She called the killing an attack on Lebanon itself and urged a speedy inquiry.
“In a country that so desperately needs to recover from the multiple crises it faces, political assassinations send exactly the wrong signal to the world about what Lebanon stands for,” she stated.
The U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis additionally known as for a fast investigation.
“This investigation should not comply with the sample of the Beirut port blast investigation that 6 months on stays inconclusive and with out accountability. People should know the reality,” Kubis tweeted.
Amnesty International’s deputy director within the area, Lynn Maalouf, stated Slim was the “victim of this decades-old pattern of impunity which has ensured that past and present targeted killings of activists, journalists and intellectuals remain unpunished, and for which the Lebanese state is ultimately responsible.” She additionally known as on Lebanon to make sure a clear investigation into the killing.
Slim was born in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, the place he lived all his life. He returned from overseas to the home, when most individuals had been leaving, throughout the 2006 struggle with Israel, when the suburbs had been being bombed.
He based Umam, a analysis and movie manufacturing home with a library documenting Lebanon’s and Shiite historical past. His household owns a publishing home and Slim hosted public debates and political boards and artwork exhibits, together with exhibitions documenting the civil struggle’s lacking. He and his spouse labored on a movie documenting the atrocities of Syria’s infamous Tadmor jail.
In 2009, he and his spouse organized a personal viewing at their middle for an Oscar-nominated anti-war Israeli cartoon about Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the rise of the then-President Bachir Gemayel, in defiance of Hezbollah and Lebanese authorities, which banned it.
Slim additionally arrange Haya Bina, or “Let’s go,” a group that encouraged participation in 2005 parliamentary elections, called for changes to Lebanon’s sectarian-based system, and taught women English.
“It is a big tragedy,” said Makram Rabah, a close friend and history lecturer. “Anyone who knows Lokman they know who his enemies are.”
Rabah said he and Slim were strong opponents of Hezbollah’s grip on power and called for sovereignty and diversity in Lebanon. They were both attacked by a group of young men during a public debate at the height of anti-government protests in 2019. Slim at the time accused Hezbollah supporters of being behind the attack.
Slim also accused Hezbollah supporters days before that attack of threatening him at his home, holding rallies and hanging posters on its walls accusing him of treason.
Alex Rowell, editor of the English language al-Jumhuriya website, said Slim always believed he was safe from physical harm. His killing would leave many unable to sleep easily in Lebanon, Rowell said.
“In the memory of Lokman’s fearless grin, however, they may find courage — and in the silhouettes of his cowardly murderers they may know their enemy,” he said.
El Deeb reported from Beirut.