Syria’s Interior Minister has committed suicide, according to the state news agency. Ghazi Kanaan had recently been questioned by a United Nation’s team probing the murder of a former Lebanese leader. His death comes just days before a final report on that assassination is due to be issued by the UN’s chief investigator.
Said to have been found in his office with a bullet wound to the head, Kanaan was a powerful member of his country’s military, security and intelligence apparatus.
Before taking the Interior Minister’s post, he spent two decades as Syria’s top official in Lebanon – tightening Damascus’s grip on its neighbour until its military withdrawal earlier this year.
Syria has increasingly felt the weight of Lebanese and international charges that it was linked to the death of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese premier killed in a bombing in Beirut in February.
An outpouring of grief and anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon followed and this – combined with international pressure – accelerated the departure of Syrian troops. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been charged in connection with Hariri’s murder.
However Syrian officials have said in recent weeks that the UN report would show Damascus had nothing to do with the killing. It has repeatedly denied any links. Ghazi Kanaan himself said he had no information on Hariri’s murder. Just hours before the announcement of his own death, he gave a radio interview saying he had served Lebanon “with honour and honesty.”
He said it could be the last statement he might give.