BEIRUT: Lebanese author and activist Luqman Salim, 59, was found dead on Thursday morning in the southern region of Zahrani. His killing was the first of a Lebanese Shiite anti-Hezbollah figure since 2004.
News of Salim’s disappearance broke on Thursday morning after nothing was heard from him on Wednesday evening after he started travelling home from visiting family in the southern village of Niha.
Rasha Al-Ameer, Salim’s sister, announced his disappearance on social media, asking for information to help recover him.
But in the early hours of Thursday morning, the news changed from a missing person to an assassination after Salim’s body was found in his car in one of the orchards of the Al-Adousiya area.
Forensic doctor Afif Khafaja said that “the body was hit with five bullets, four in the head and one in the back,” which is an uncommon method of assassination. No identification cards were found on the body.
Salim’s family used a mobile application to locate his cell phone, which was found tossed in one of the orchards near the house he was at in Niha.
His killing is the culmination of a series of threats Salim has received for many years — which intensified in recent months — for his strong anti-Hezbollah stance.
He was accused by Hezbollah and its members of being an “Israeli agent” or “a Shiite of the American Embassy.”
The activist chose not to hide in his home in the region of Ghobeiry despite the threats he had received, refusing to let intimidation prevent him from publishing his ideas.
Threats were sent through flyers that were thrown into his garden and read “muffler” and “Hezbollah is the nation’s honor.”
In a statement he issued in 2019, he blamed “all that has happened and may happen in the future on the de facto forces represented by Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri,” adding: “I place myself and my home under the protection of the Lebanese security forces, particularly the Lebanese Army.”
Salim had turned his family home and the surrounding garden into a sanctuary for hosting intellectual and cultural activities.
He hailed from a family known for its knowledge, culture, openness and involvement in public affairs. His father, Mohsen Salim, was an MP and a prominent lawyer, while his uncle, Karim Salim, was an important judge.
Security sources told Arab News that “the area in which Salim’s body was found is a mandatory crossing route from Tyre district’s Niha village towards Beirut, through the Zahrani highway. However, Al-Adousiya’s population, where his body was found, has a majority of Christians and its overt loyalty is to the Free Patriotic Movement, while the neighboring town of Tuftaha has a Shiite majority and the majority of the town’s political affiliation is mixed between the Amal movement and Hezbollah. Whoever committed his crime has carefully chosen this area to dispose of the body.”
The judiciary instructed the Information Division of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces to conduct a complete scan of security cameras in the area to find out the route that Salim’s car took before his killing, and to download and analyze the data on his cell phone.
In her first comment on the assassination of her brother, Al-Ameer said: “We know who the killer is. He has control over the area in which Luqman was killed. Whoever threatened Luqman is involved in his murder, it has their signature all over it. They want everyone to leave and for only the killers to stay.”
The murder of Slim, who represents the opposing opinion within the Shiite community in Lebanon, provoked angry reactions across Lebanon.
President Michel Aoun requested a “swift investigation to clear up the circumstances of the crime and the parties behind it.”
The caretaker Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi described the incident as a “horrific crime.”
Slim, one of the most prominent Lebanese intellectuals to be gunned down since historian Samir Kassir in 2005, was born in Beirut in 1962 and studied in France late in the 1975-1990 civil war.
His murder comes as Lebanon marked six months since a devastating blast at the capital’s port killed more than 200 people and ravaged entire neighborhoods.
What was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history was caused by a years-old stock of highly explosive ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse.
Yet Lebanon’s own investigation into the presence of the material and its ignition appears to be completely stalled.
Hezbollah’s enemies pointed a finger at the Shiite militia’s influence over Lebanese customs and port security following the explosion.
According to a judicial official, the prosecutor tasked with investigating the blast started looking into possible connections to Syrian businessmen this week.
The United Nations envoy to Lebanon Jan Kubis wrote he was saddened by Slim’s murder, describing him as “an honest independent voice of courage.”
He also said that, unlike the port blast, Slim’s murder should be investigated in a “speedy and transparent way.”
France’s ambassador, Anne Grillo, spoke on social media of her “immense sadness and preoccupation” over Slim’s killing.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by WCT staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)