Lebanon: murder of photographer Joe Bejjany sparks outrage

Father on school run was shot repeatedly by hooded men on motorcycle

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators stand on a bridge decorated with a national flag during an anti-government protest along a highway in Jal el-Dib, Lebanon October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
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A Lebanese photographer was shot to death by hooded men on Monday morning as he prepared to take his children to school.

CCTV footage leaked to local media shows Joe Bejjany getting into his car outside his home in the mountain village of Kahaleh, about 13km from Beirut.

As he prepares to drive off, two men arrive on a motorcycle and approach the car. They open the driver's door and shoot  Bejjany several times with silenced pistols. The men then flee off-camera on foot. They are still at large.

Lebanon’s state news agency said Bejjany died of his wounds in the nearby Saint Charles Hospital. His death sparked outrage in the country.

Bejjany previously worked in the telecommunications sector but had recently found work as a photographer, including for the Lebanese army.

The village's mayor, Jean Bejjany, said CCTV footage indicated the involvement of a third suspect, and demanded an investigation that would reveal the motives for the murder within 48 hours.

He said that Bejjany had no personal issues and was well liked and said that locals would begin blocking the roads in protest if the culprits were not identified quickly.

Locals told The National that within hours of the murder, villagers were attempting to block the nearby Beirut-Damascus motorway, while the church bells rang out in tribute.

Lebanon's Internal Security Forces told The National that they had begun an investigation, but there was no information yet regarding the motives or identities of the attackers.

Michel Moawad, a former MP, tweeted that the murder risked exacerbating the decline of the Lebanese state.

“The security and judicial agencies, as well as every official, must hasten to uncover the perpetrators and their backgrounds and impose the most severe penalties on them to avoid a return to the logic of self-defence and the complete dissolution of what remains of the state.”

Bejjany was recently acclaimed for his pictures of the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion.

The “About Me” section of his professional website shows him posing in front of a Humvee. A description reads: “This hobby has changed my perception of the world. My observation of things seems to go beyond their physical beauty.”

The attack came just weeks after a colonel in Lebanon's customs service, Munir Abu Rajeli, was found dead at his home in another murder that shocked the country. The attacks are not believed to be linked.