Assassination or botched robbery? Circumstances unclear on killing of Hezbollah critic

Lebanese army disclosed the killing of Pascal Sleiman, an activist opposed to Hezbollah, sparking uproar; Many pointed fingers at the Shiite organization for his death, but the army reported a Syrian gang was responsible for his murder during an attempted car theft; Nasrallah is denying all involvement

A shocking announcement was made on Monday by the Lebanese Army concerning the disappearance of Pascal Sleiman, the head of the Jbeil district office for the Lebanese Forces (LF). Sleiman, who had vanished after being abducted the day before, was reportedly killed and his remains transported to Syria. The rumor mill pinned his kidnapping on Hezbollah.
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פסקל סלימאן
פסקל סלימאן
Pascal Sleiman
It was revealed, after a series of arrests and subsequent interrogations, that Sleiman, who headed the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces Party in a predominantly Christian coastal area, was killed during an attempted car theft.
Lebanon's army said on Monday that a group of Syrians that tried to steal Sleiman's car the previous evening but ultimately killed him and took his body to neighboring Syria. It said security forces had arrested most of those responsible.
But the Lebanese Forces rejected the account, saying in a statement that Sleiman was attacked because of the party's political views.
This incident has inflamed existing tension and caused an unsettled atmosphere. Such was the unrest that even Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, mentioned the kidnapping in his Monday speech. Nasrallah, whose organization is a staunch adversary of the Lebanese Forces, took time during his broadcasted speech to refute any connection of Hezbollah to Sleiman's disappearance, condemning "unfounded allegations."
"After his abduction, parties and TV stations came out and decided that Hezbollah had abducted him. We heard words that remind us of the civil war," Nasrallah said. According to the Hezbollah leader, "What happened was a huge outrage, which exposed their (the parties that claimed Hezbollah was responsible for the abduction) true colors and showed that they are looking for a civil war."
Charbel Abi Akl, a former LF representative for Jbeil, spoke with L'Orient Today on Sunday evening. According to him, Sleiman, a native of the village of Mayfouk, was ambushed around 6:15 p.m. on Sunday. A group of men cornered him in his vehicle, forcing him off the road in the area of Kharbeh. Sleiman's professional history, as presented on his Linkedin page, reveals he has held several roles at Bylbos Bank, dating back to 1999.
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 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
Nasrallah denies all involvement
(Photo: AFP)
Lebanese forces responded on X: "Following the kidnapping of Pascal Sleiman on Sunday, the Army Intelligence Services arrested several Syrians involved in the operation."
The media team of departing Prime Minister Najib Mikati reacted to the army's disclosure with a statement detailing how Mikati was notified about Sleiman's "assassination." The statement emphasized Mikati's insistence on the continuation of the investigations to fully unravel the details of the abduction and identify all the parties involved.
Mikati's statement reads: "We condemn and denounce this criminal act, and we offer our condolences to his family and to the LF. I call on everyone to show self-control and wisdom, and not to get caught up in rumors and emotions."
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