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Monday, September 25, 2006

Tests show Hariri killed by truck bomb

UNITED NATIONS - New tests corroborate the theory that former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a massive suicide truck bomb, investigators said in a report Monday.

The report from Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz's investigators said that Syria — which had been accused of obstructing the probe — has been generally cooperative in its investigation of the Feb. 14, 2005 bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others.

Investigators had suspected for some time that Hariri was killed by a bomb packed into a Mitsubishi minivan and detonated by a suicide attacker. 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).

Hariri's killing provoked an international outcry that ultimately forced Syria to withdraw thousands of its troops from Lebanon in April 2005, ending nearly three decades of military dominance of the country. Syria has denied involvement in Hariri's death.

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. Yet Brammertz shied away from making any such claims.

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.

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