U.N.: Hariri’s killers belonged to gang

Rafik Hariri’s killers belonged to a large criminal gang, according to an interim U.N. report.

Western nations blamed Syria for the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, and the killing helped spur an end to Syria’s decades-long occupation of Lebanon.

That caused Hezbollah, the anti-Israel terrorist group, to lose its main sponsor in Lebanon, a weakness that is believed to be one reason Hezbollah launched its war against Israel in 2006 as a means of shoring up credibility.

Hariri was leading a nascent movement to remove Syrian influence from his country.

Daniel Bellemare, the Canadian who is the chief U.N. investigator, said in his report published Friday that his priority now is to determine who belongs to the criminal gang.

The restrained language of the report differs from earlier reports by Bellemare’s predecessors, who were more explicit in blaming Syria. However, the existence of such a gang does not dismiss the possibility that it was run by Syrian officials, some of whom have long maintained criminal networks in Lebanon.

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