BEIRUT, Lebanon – Police have detained a third man in connection with the assassination of former Christian warlord Elie Hobeika, police said Sunday.
Antoine Hannoun Ruhayem, a car dealer in the southern Christian town of Jezzine, was picked up Saturday for questioning about the sale of a car later rigged with explosives and detonated Thursday to assassinate Hobeika.
Hobeika, leader of the Christian militiamen who massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Beirut in 1982, and three of his bodyguards were killed when the booby-trapped parked car exploded as they were leaving Hobeika's east Beirut home. Six others were wounded.
Hobeika, a former minister and member of Parliament, was buried Saturday in his hometown of Baskinta, 20 miles northeast of Beirut.
In the investigation's first arrests, police detained the car's former owner, George Massoud Hanna, and his cousin, Charbel Hanna, in their hometown of Ein el-Mir in southern Lebanon.
George Hanna told investigators he sold his dark blue Mercedes for $9,000 a month ago to two men who apparently used false identities.
Ruhayem owned the Jezzine dealership where George Hanna placed the car for sale. Police said he apparently witnessed the sale, police officials said Sunday on condition of anonymity.
Charbel Hanna, who is being detained as another witness to the sale, gave a detailed description of the buyers, who are being sought by police, officials said.
Lebanese Interior Minister Elias Murr has blamed Israel for Hobeika's assassination — a charge Israel has rejected. Hobeika has said he was preparing to go to Belgium to testify that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was behind the 1982 massacre.
Sharon was Israeli defense minister then, and Israeli troops controlled access to the Sabra and Chatilla camps. An Israeli judicial commission found Sharon indirectly responsible for the atrocity, but it was militiamen under Hobeika's command who carried it out.
Massacre survivors are trying to sue Sharon in a Belgium court for crimes against humanity.