The Lebanese security forces have found the body of anti-Hezbollah journalist and activist Luqman Salim in his car in Nabatieh city hours after he was reported missing, security officials and local media said as quoted by Arab News. He was shot in the head with two bullets.
Salim disappeared on Wednesday since 8 p.m. during a visit to his friend’s house in a village in southern Lebanon, the report said. His family lost contact with him and found no trace of his car, which prompted them to call Lebanese hospitals and police stations but without any result.
Friends of the Hezbollah critic have suggested that a kidnapping took place, prompting his family to issue on Thursday a distress call to anyone who knew anything about him. His sister Rasha Salim has posted on her Facebook and Twitter accounts news of losing contact with her brother. She also wrote in a tweet at dawn on Thursday that her brother has not answered his phone since yesterday evening.
“My brother Lokman Slim left Niha al-Janoub six hours ago heading back to Beirut and he has not yet returned. He is not answering his phone. There is no trace of him in hospitals,” Rasha al-Ameer wrote on Twitter at 3:44 a.m. Beirut time.
The phone was later found in the outskirts of the town of Srifa, in southern Lebanon where Shi’ite Hezbollah has a dominant presence, dumped in a field on a secondary road.
Rabah confirmed to Al Arabiya English that Slim’s family was able to track his phone to a location where he was last seen in the south, no sign of him or his vehicle were found, however.
“We found him, he was shot in the head apparently and his rental car was found in Nabatiyeh,” Slim’s friend and American University in Beirut (AUB) Professor Makram Rabah told to Al Arabiya English. “Lokman is an outspoken voice against Hezbollah and he went missing deep in the region and their areas of control and this is the technique they’ve used before,” Rabah said.
Another source told the Reuters news agency the activist and publisher who ran a research centre was shot and killed and the motive was not immediately clear. Lebanese media also reported his death. It was the first such alleged killing of a leading anti-Hezbollah activist in years.
“He was found dead in his car, killed by a bullet to the head,” an official told the AFP news agency on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
Slim was often criticised by Hezbollah supporters for being instrumentalised by the United States. A journalist, political analyst and activist known as one of the leading Shiite voices criticising Hezbollah, Slim was regularly attacked in media loyal to the powerful group.
The secular intellectual and pro-democracy activist had also made several documentary films with his wife Monika Borgmann, who had sounded the alarm on social media when her husband went missing. Slim, who runs a film production house Umam Productions, lived in the southern suburbs of Beirut with his wife. His family also owns a publishing house and has often hosted public debates and political forums.
Security sources did not immediately elaborate on the circumstances of his death but Slim’s own sister said before his death was even confirmed that his disappearance was inevitably linked to his opinions.
“He had a political stance, why else would he have been kidnapped,” Rasha al-Ameer told AFP.
Slim’s criticism of Hezbollah has faced rebuke from supporters of the armed movement, who sometimes called him “an embassy Shi’ite,” a term accusing opponents of being tools of the United States. Washington deems Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has ramped up sanctions against its officials and allies in Lebanon in recent years.
Hezbollah did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
After Slim was found killed, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s son Jawad shared an Arabic tweet that translates to “Loss of some is in reality an unexpected gain and kindness for others” with the hashtag “no sorrow.” He then deleted the tweet that he said it was personal and was not intended in the way that some understood it as subtweet on the death of the activist.
“The tweet has nothing to do with what is happening. A little awareness,” he said.