Last updated: 17 December, 2012

US names Lebanese ex-minister Samaha global terrorist

The United States on Monday named Lebanese ex-information minister Michel Samaha to its global terror list for allegedly aiding Damascus launch assassinations in Lebanon.

Samaha, 64, was arrested in August by Lebanese authorities and accused of plotting to assassinate Lebanese leaders and of transporting explosives into Lebanon for such attacks, the US Treasury said in a statement.

“The United States will continue to expose any attempts by the Assad regime to meddle in the affairs of its neighbors and further destabilize the region,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

“We will continue to work with our international partners to ensure that the sovereignty of Lebanon is respected and upheld.”

Samaha, who has both Lebanese and Canadian citizenship, was minister of information and tourism in the 1990s government of Rafiq Hariri, who was himself killed in a massive car bombing on the Beirut seafront in 2005.

Samaha was officially listed as a “specially designated global terrorist” by the US State Department, accused of aiding the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to launch attacks in Lebanon.

The Treasury slapped economic sanctions on him that freeze any assets he holds under US jurisdiction and forbids Americans from doing business with him.

Samaha was arrested on August 9 at his residence in Khenshara, 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Beirut on the order of Lebanon’s attorney general.

The arrest was connected to a seizure of explosives that were to have been used mostly in northern Lebanon, a region of tensions linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria, an official told AFP at the time.

The United States said Samaha “reportedly” received explosives from Ali Mamluk, the head of the Syrian National Security Bureau.

“Information available to the US government indicates that in July 2012 Mamluk was involved in a plot with Samaha to conduct bombing attacks against Lebanese political and religious figures in northern Lebanon, and Mamluk provided money and explosives to Samaha for that purpose,” the Treasury said.