Lebanon investigates death of former customs official

A soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion at the Port of Beirut, Lebanon, August 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 December 2020

Lebanon investigates death of former customs official

  • Col. Munir Abu Rjeili was found dead, in his home in Qartaba, some 40 km northeast of Beirut, from a blow to the head
  • Leading Druze politician Walid Jumblatt questioned whether there was a link with the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities are investigating the killing of a retired customs officer in what a leading politician described as a “terrible incident.”
Col. Munir Abu Rjeili was found dead in his home on Wednesday in Qartaba, some 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Beirut, with a blow to the head, a security source said.
Leading Druze politician Walid Jumblatt asked on Twitter on Thursday what was behind the killing. He questioned whether there was a link with the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut port that killed about 200 people and devastated swathes of the capital.
“Is this terrible incident to obstruct any serious investigation into the case of the explosion at Beirut port?” Jumblatt wrote.
But a senior interior ministry source said: “So far, no link has been found between the port and the murder.”
Abu Rjeili’s career in Lebanese customs included leading a Beirut division that counters overland smuggling, serving at the airport and heading a division of the Higher Customs Council, according to CV sent by a relative and lawyer, Joseph Khalil.
Abu Rjeili had not been summoned for questioning in the investigation in to the Beirut blast probe and had not served at the port, the source said.
Khalil, the lawyer, said the family was waiting for the results of the investigation.
Four months since the explosion, Lebanese are still awaiting the final results of the investigation, after authorities promised a full and swift probe.
President Michel Aoun last month called for the acceleration of the investigation.
The first warning about the cargo that blew up in Beirut port came in 2014 from another late Lebanese customs officer, Col. Joseph Skaf. Skaf’s family believe his death in 2017 was murder, possibly connected to his long career as a customs officer fighting criminality and drug smuggling.


UN says breakthrough achieved in Libya transition talks

Updated 55 min 43 sec ago

UN says breakthrough achieved in Libya transition talks

  • Talks in Geneva have been taking place amid a heavy international push to reach a peaceful settlement to Libya’s civil war
  • The US welcomed the breakthrough and urged all parties of Libya “to work with urgency and in good faith”

CAIRO: The top UN official for Libya said Saturday that an advisory committee for representatives of Libya’s different regions has proposed a way forward for choosing a transitional government that would lead the war-torn country to elections late this year.
The talks in Geneva, structured around the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, have been taking place amid a heavy international push to reach a peaceful settlement to Libya’s civil war. Previous diplomatic initiatives have all collapsed.
UN acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams told a news conference in Geneva that the advisory committee’s members “have met their responsibility with a constructive spirit, cooperative efforts, and a great deal of patriotism.”
The committee is part of a 75-member forum that represents all the three main regions of Libya. The 18-member committee has proposed that each region’s electoral college name a representative to a three-member presidential council, Williams said. A prime minister would be chosen by the 75-member forum. A successful nominee should receive 70% of votes.
Williams said that the forum would resort to lists formed from Libya’s three regions, with each list consisting of four names, nominated for the presidential council and a prime minister position.
She said a list should obtain 17 endorsements: eight from the western region, six from the eastern region and three from southern Libya. The wining list should receive 60% of the votes of the 75-member forum in the first round. A run-up is expected if no list received the required votes, she said.
Williams said the forum would vote on the proposed mechanism on Monday and the results are expected the following day.
The transitional government would be “a temporary unified executive staffed by Libyan patriots who want to share responsibility rather than to divide the cake,” the UN acting envoy said.
The US welcomed the breakthrough and urged all parties of Libya “to work with urgency and in good faith” to establish an interim government, according to a statement by the US Embassy in Libya.
“It is time to move past the conflict and corruption facilitated by the status quo,” it said.
The forum is part of the UN efforts to end the chaos that engulfed the oil-rich North African nation after the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. It has reached an agreement last year to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, 2021.
The oil-rich country is now split east to west between two rival administrations, each backed by an array of militias and foreign powers.
The warring sides agreed to a UN-brokered cease-fire in October in Geneva, a deal that included the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya within three months.
No progress was announced on the issue of foreign forces and mercenaries since they inked the cease-fire deal almost two months ago.