11 September 2007

Where is Shaker al-Absi?

It's official: Shaker al-Absi fled the Nahr el Bared camp before the army generals announced their final push into the Fateh al-Islam hideout. DNA testing on a body believed to be his, and identified as Absi by his wife, daughter and a Palestinian cleric, proved that it wasn't him. It seems unlikely the Fatah al-Islam leader is genetically unrelated to his offspring and kin (samples were reportedly taken from his daughters and brother).


Just like the Hariri assassination required planning and intelligence work, so did the operations carried out by Fatah al-Islam inside and outside the refugee camp. Sadly, it looks like the sacrifice made by over 160 Lebanese soldiers is being wasted by some pro-Syrian army Lebanese chiefs, some of whom were "educated" in Syrian army institutions. Last week, this blog quoted reports claiming that some Lebanese army officers facilitated the escape of Syrian intelligence officers who were running Fatah al-Islam.

March 14 continues to remain silent over the army's exoneration of Syrian intelligence. When asked by LBC's Marcel Ghanem last week why army commander Michel Suleiman exonerated Syrian intelligence, Walid Jumblatt said, "I understand why Suleiman would say that, he has his considerations." Jumblatt refused to explain what these "considerations" were, saying that he did not want problems with the army commander.-(beirutbeltway)

DNA tests take some time to come up with results! How come results were announced so soon?

Will this be a never ending movie of doubtfull investigations and endless obscure events similar to the Hariri case?

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.