A state investigation into the death of Syria's interior minister found he had committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth shortly after returning to his office from a brief trip home, government newspapers reported Thursday. Chief public attorney Muhammad al-Louji said in a statement that Ghazi Kenaan shot himself with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver on Wednesday, the Tishrin newspaper said.
Al-Louji said that following an examination of the body, and interviews with witnesses, "it was confirmed that ... Kenaan placed the tip of the revolver in his mouth and fired it," Tishrin reported. His finding confirmed the report of suicide issued by the official Syrian Arab News Agency hours after the death. But Syrian watchers, such as former U.S. Mideast mediator Dennis Ross and Lebanese legislator and columnist Gebran Tueni, said Wednesday they did not believe Kenaan had killed himself.
Kenaan's death came just days before the U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was expected to issue its final report. Kenaan was questionned by the investigators last month, along with at least six other Syrian officials.
Kenaan, who effectively controlled Lebanon as Syria's intelligence chief in Beirut for about 20 years, takes to the grave many of the secrets of Lebanon's modern history. He witnessed many of its political and military developments, including the bombings, assassinations and military offensives of the 1975-90 civil war years. He remained in Lebanon after the war as Syria consolidated its power over the country.
He left Lebanon in 2003 when he was appointed to the Syrian Cabinet. On Thursday morning, Syrian Cabinet ministers, led by Premier Naji Otari, and military officers gathered at Shami Hospital, where Kenaan was admitted Wednesday.
The officers stood to attention as Kenaan's four sons carried their father's coffin to an ambulance for the journey to his home town, Bhamra, in western Syria. A wreath from President Bashar Assad's office was fixed to the front of the ambulance, reports the AP. I.L.