BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun said Saturday he was the target of an assassination attempt in an incident that took place earlier in the day.
Security sources told The Daily Star that a shot was fired at a vehicle belonging to one of two decoy convoys accompanying Aoun during his return trip from Jezzine, south Lebanon.
“I was the target of three assassination attempts and the culprits were uncovered [on those occasions]. This is the fourth one and we hope [the culprits] will be revealed,” Aoun said Saturday night to a group of supporters in Batroun, north Lebanon.
“Do not be concerned about the incident we encountered, which is to be expected, as I am addressing you now and I am in perfect health,” he told his supporters.
Aoun headed to Jezzine earlier in the day in three convoys, two of which were decoys. The three convoys took separate routes during the voyage to and from Jezzine, where Aoun had earlier addressed supporters in an apparent primer for the upcoming 2013 elections.
Security sources said one of the seven vehicles in the decoy convoy was damaged as a result of the shooting and that an investigation is under way.
According to several media stations, Aoun’s office confirmed in a statement that “one of his convoys was fired upon during his return from Jezzine.”
“But he denied this earlier due to security reasons,” the statement added.
Prior to his arrival in Jezzine, members of the Internal Security Forces and Lebanese soldiers, accompanied by police dogs, searched places Aoun was expected to visit.
Several alleged assassination attempts against Lebanese politicians and figures in recent months have jolted Lebanon, already suffering from developments in neighboring Syria.
In April, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said he had escaped an assassination attempt when shots were fired at his residence in Mount Lebanon. Months later, two detonators were found in an elevator at an office building in Beirut belonging to MP Butros Harb, in another alleged assassination attempt.
The small Mediterranean country has also witnessed a string of kidnappings of foreign nationals, reminiscent of the Civil War days, and in August a former Lebanese minister was charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in the country, as well as assassinate religious and political figures.
During his address to supporters in Batroun, Aoun spoke briefly about the shooting.
“Why do they want to assassinate me? I have not killed anyone, nor have I robbed [anyone] and very soon you will hear about all the robbing,” Aoun said.
“We take the opposite course and they want to set Lebanon on fire and we have managed to prevent Lebanon from burning or being burned by any other country,” he added.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of the March 8 coalition to which Aoun belongs, contacted the FPM leader over the incident and expressed relief that his ally was in good health.
“Nasrallah contacted Gen. Aoun to check on his health and congratulated him on surviving the assassination attempt,” Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station reported. – With Mohammed Zaatari