When Lebanese anti-Hezbollah publisher and documentary-maker Lokman Slim didn’t return home after visiting a friend in a rural village on Wednesday night, his sister Rasha had a very bad feeling. Her brother had been increasingly worried about his fate, even predicting last year that if anything happened to him, Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist militant group whose Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc political party is highly influential in the Lebanese parliament, bore “full responsibility for what happened and what might happen.”
Rasha al-Ameer posted urgent messages on Facebook and Twitter at dawn, including one in which she said she had lost contact with her brother. “My brother Lokman Slim left Niha from the south 6 hours ago, en route to Beirut and he has not yet returned,” she wrote. “His phone is not answered. Whoever knows about him can contact me please.” A few hours later, police found his body in his car with two fatal bullet holes in his skull.
Friends of the outspoken Hezbollah critic had at first assumed he was kidnapped, concerned over increasing threats after a recent television appearance in which he criticized the drastic political situation in Lebanon and called for action to form a new government. Slim, 59, had recently amplified his criticisms, asserting on Arab News that “the claim to the neutrality of Lebanon today, despite its importance, remains unenforceable in light of Hezbollah’s domination of the country and the government.”
Lebanon’s acting prime minister, Saad Hariri, condemned Slim’s murder, and the country Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi called it “horrific.”
Bassem Sabeh, a former lawmaker, told Arab News the killing was a “direct message to all activists, writers and politicians from the Shia community, who mobilize and express their ideas outside of Hezbollah’s political orbit.”
Slim, who studied in France, was described in Lebanese news reports as the “the most prominent and fiercest” opponent of Hezbollah “which made him vulnerable to accusations and threats from the party and its supporters at other times.”
His sister Rasha told reporters on Thursday that she found out what happened to Slim via a news alert while she was at the police station to report him missing. “What a big loss. And they lost a noble enemy too... It’s rare for someone to argue with them and live among them with respect,” she said. “Killing is the only language they are fluent in.”
Police have not yet attributed the journalist’s murder to anyone.