BEIRUT, Lebanon – A Syrian was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Gibran Tueni, the anti-Syrian general manager and columnist of Lebanon's leading newspaper.
Abdel-Qadar Abdel Qader was among three Syrian nationals detained earlier for questioning in the Dec. 12 killing of Tueni, who was also An-Nahar's top editor.
The two others were released after questioning, but an arrest warrant was issued against Abdel Qader by the Lebanese military prosecutor, based on his presence near the site of Tueni's killing and telephone calls he made before and after the blast, a judicial official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
The arrest was the first in the Tueni assassination and a string of other bombings that targeted anti-Syrian politicians and journalists after the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in April, ending 29 years of military presence in the country.
Lebanon has suffered 14 bomb attacks this year, the worst being the Feb. 14 truck bombing that blew up the motorcade of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in central Beirut, killing him and 20 other people.
Hariri's killing sparked mass anti-Syrian demonstrations, which helped force Damascus to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April. A U.N.-mandated commission is investigating the Hariri assassination, and four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals and at least two Lebanese brothers have been arrested in the case.
The U.N. Security Council earlier this month turned down the Lebanese government's request to broaden the Hariri probe to include other bombings, offering instead the commission's technical assistance.
The judicial official said authorities were still listening to testimony of witnesses in the Tueni assassination. He said the prosecutor also had issued arrest warrants for other unidentified suspects on Tuesday.
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday reiterated his country's innocence in Hariri's assassination and subsequent killings.
In an interview with Turkish television broadcast on the Arab satellite station Al-Arabiya, he said the accusations are "clearly political and have nothing to do with the crimes being committed in Lebanon."
"We reject these accusations and we denounce these crimes," Assad said. He also reiterated Syria's "reservations" on the two interim reports issued by Detlev Mehlis, the chief of the U.N. commission investigating the Hariri killing, which implicated top Syrian security officials in the killing.
Assad said he was confident the investigation — if carried out objectively — would find Syria innocent.