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On Valentine's Day 2005, former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri, nicknamed 'Mr Leban' for his local power and patronage, was killed by a massive explosion as he drove along the Beirut seafront. Ten weeks later, Syrian troops had withdrawn from Leban after an occupation of nearly thirty years. In this compelling book, Nicholas Blanford looks at how the murder of a businessman provoked such a seismic shift in Middle Eastern politics. He examines Hariri's past, inextricably linked with that of Leban, and uncovers a murky world of shifting alliances between businesses, security services, politicians and diplomats. Based on exclusive interviews with the key players in the Syrian, Lebanese and international arenas, Blanford traces the last weeks of Hariri's life, and reveals who and what stood to gain from his death. Gaining access to material never before made public, Blanford shows how right up until the morning of his assassination, Hariri was building up a unique political movement which would have upset the balance of power in Middle Eastern politics. Larger than life figures emerge in this Shakespearean political drama: the wily Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, the much-feared head of Syrian military intelligence in Leban, Rustom Ghazaleh and the young Syrian leader eager to stamp his authority, Bashar al-Assad. With Leban reeling from the explosion of regional tensions in the summer of 2006, Blanford traces the impact of the Hariri assassination on Hizbullah, Syria and Israel. Full of intrigue, shady characters and suspense, Killing Mr Leban is the definitive account of how Beirut became once again the flashpoint of the Middle East.
Nicholas Blanford has been a Beirut correspondent for over 10 years. In 1996 he began writing for The Times and The Lebanon Daily Star, breaking several major stories about Israel's occupation of South Lebanon. An expert on Hizbullah's military activities, he has spoken at international conferences on the subject, and written about it for the Jane's Information Group. Since 2001 he has written for The Christian Science Monitor and Time magazine. He reported from Iraq for the Christian Science Monitor from 2003-2004. He lives with his wife and two children in Beirut.