Thousands of People Mourn Slain Lebanese Forces Official

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Thousands of People Mourn Slain Lebanese Forces Official

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Thousands of Lebanese on Friday mourned a slain Lebanese Forces official authorities said was killed by a Syrian gang, with supporters pointing the finger at Lebanon's Hezbollah group.

Pascal Sleiman was a coordinator in the Jbeil area north of Beirut for the Lebanese Forces (LF) Christian party, which opposes the government in neighboring Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

On Monday, the army said that Sleiman, who had gone missing the day before, was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border.

His party said it would consider Sleiman's death a "political assassination until proven otherwise".

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied that his party was involved.

Speaking after Sleiman's funeral, LF leader Samir Geagea called for the "failed, corrupt" authorities in Lebanon to be changed.

Geagea blamed their failure, among other things, on "illegal weapons" -- a barely veiled reference to Hezbollah.

The Iran-backed group is the only party in Lebanon that has kept its weapons arsenal after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, and it wields great influence on the country's political life.

Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in actions opposed by the LF and other parties.

"We don't want to wake up one day, as we did now, and find ourselves involved in a never-ending war," Geagea said Friday.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, spiritual leader of Lebanon's largest Christian sect, held back tears as he presided over Sleiman's funeral in Jbeil.

Outside the St Georges church, LF supporters waved the party's white flag with its cedar tree -- the symbol of Lebanon -- circled in red.

Mourners told AFP they were unconvinced by the army's version that car thieves killed Sleiman.

"This story never convinced me. It is not coherent at all," said Jean Habshi, 50, who came to pay his respects.

"Enough with Hezbollah, enough with the illegal weapons," Roba Hajal, 24, told AFP outside the church.

"If they (Hezbollah) did not kill him, at the very least they allowed the Syrians in. We are all at risk of meeting Pascal's fate," she said.

Lebanon has a long history of political assassinations that have taken place with impunity.

Years of economic meltdown have further strained a weak judiciary that has been widely accused of succumbing to political interference.

Ziad Hawat, an LF lawmaker from Jbeil, on Friday called for a "serious, transparent" probe into Sleiman's murder, adding that the party had concerns "based on past experiences".

"We do not want the killer to be known to all," he added, while "remaining unknown to the judiciary".

On Tuesday, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi vowed to get tough on Syrians after several were arrested on suspicion of involvement in Sleiman's killing.



Yemen’s Central Bank Tightens Grip on Foreign Transfers

Yemen’s Central Bank. (Government media)
Yemen’s Central Bank. (Government media)
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Yemen’s Central Bank Tightens Grip on Foreign Transfers

Yemen’s Central Bank. (Government media)
Yemen’s Central Bank. (Government media)

Yemen’s Central Bank, based in Aden, the interim capital, has tightened its grip on foreign money transfers, requiring all transactions to go through approved banks and exchange companies.

Banks and exchange companies must operate mainly from Aden and grant local entities permission to handle transactions. Moreover, they must deliver remittances in the received currency without converting unless the client requests otherwise.

This step aims to better regulate financial flows amidst Yemen’s challenging economic situation.

The decision strengthens the Central Bank’s control in Aden by requiring all banks and exchange companies in Houthi-held areas to get approval before conducting transactions.

It also ensures that transfers are made in the original currency, unlike what the Houthis are doing now, withholding transfers in US dollars. This comes just two days before the deadline for banks to move their main offices from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to the interim capital.

According to Yemeni financial expert Wahid Al-Fudai, the Central Bank’s decision aims to regulate international money transfers through remittance companies and tighten control over them.

Al-Fudai sees this decision as part of the bank’s efforts to regulate banks and exchange companies according to local laws, serving the public interest, and keeping up with global trends.

He explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Central Bank had previously issued instructions regarding financial networks, emphasizing the need for its oversight over external transfers.

He stressed that only qualified and licensed institutions are allowed to conduct these transfers, meeting all requirements for compliance with international standards, especially in combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

Al-Fudai highlighted the importance of this step, especially with the Iran-backed Houthi militias now labeled as a terrorist organization by the United States and Australia, which could lead to further complications requiring the Central Bank’s attention.