Lebanon investigates death of former customs official

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

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 chief hails progress in Libya talks

UN chief hails progress in Libya talks
Updated 7 min 13 sec ago

UN chief hails progress in Libya talks

UN chief hails progress in Libya talks
  • Breakthrough over selection of executive authority that will shepherd country to elections

NEW YORK: The advisory committee of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) has agreed on a mechanism for selecting the new executive authority, whose formation has been the subject of sparring among the various factions in the war-ravaged country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the participants at the UN-brokered talks in Geneva for their “constructive discussions” during their four-day meeting.

The 18-member committee is part of a larger forum that represents all three main regions of Libya.

It has proposed that each region’s electoral body nominate a representative to a three-member presidential council. A prime minister would be chosen by the 75-member forum.

Guterres mentioned in particular “the decisive role played by women representatives and the southern members” in reaching a consensus on a mechanism for the selection of the executive authority, which will shepherd the country to national elections in December, in line with the Tunis Roadmap adopted last November. 

Calling on the members of the LPDF to “participate constructively” in the vote on the selection mechanism, Guterres reiterated the UN’s support for the Libyan people “in their efforts to advance peace and stability.”

Acting Special Representative for Libya Stephanie Williams also hailed the breakthrough at the Geneva talks, at the conclusion of which she told the press that the advisory committee members “had risen to the occasion.”

She added: “They met their responsibility with a constructive spirit, cooperative efforts and a great deal of patriotism. They have taken a decisive step towards meeting the goals that were set in Tunis.”  

Guterres said he was grateful to “the commitment and outstanding leadership” of Williams in moving the political process forward in Libya.

Last week, the Security Council approved Guterres’s nomination of Jan Kubis of Slovakia as his special envoy on Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Kubis had held a similar position in Lebanon and Iraq.

Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Kubis “brings with him many years of experience in diplomacy, foreign security policy and international economic relations, both internationally and in at home in Slovakia.”

Kubis will take up his function in early February. Until then, Williams will continue as acting special representative through January “to ensure a smooth transition.”