BEIRUT — At 7 a.m. on Monday, Joe Bejjany, 37, was murdered by two masked assailants seconds after he entered his car in front of his home in Aley’s small mountain village of Kahaleh.
Bejjany, an employee of the Alfa telecoms company and a part-time photographer, was about to take his two young daughters to school on his way to work. They were not present in the car.
Surveillance footage circulating on social media showed Bejjany getting into the driver’s seat and closing his door when two men jogged down from a stairwell, which connected to the road above his two-story apartment building.
One of the men, wearing only a medical mask to hide his face, briskly opened the car door and shot Bejjany. The other man trailed behind, wearing a motorcycle helmet and a backpack, and carried a package similar to a toolbox.
Kahaleh Mayor Jean Bejjani told L’Orient Today that the victim was shot once in the head and once in the chest. The gun was fitted with a silencer, multiple local outlets reported.
The attackers took his phone before running away, Bejjani said. The victim was transferred to St. Charles Hospital, but died shortly after.
“It seems like they had been observing him every day, what time he leaves and goes. The minute he got in his car they came down the stairs and shot him,” the mayor said. “Obviously they had been waiting for him in this area.”
An investigation is currently underway but no information has been disclosed on the attackers or their motives. The Internal Security Forces could not be immediately reached for comment.
Bejjany described himself as an “amateur military photographer” on his Twitter page. His online photography portfolio includes images of military aircraft, tanks and soldiers.
On Aug. 31, Bejjany posted a tweet saying, “After 15 years of photography in Lebanon and abroad … I decided to quit military photography in Lebanon.”
A Lebanese Army spokesperson said that Bejjany was not an employee but a hobby photographer who would ask for permission to photograph the army from time to time.
Kahaleh’s mayor described Bejjany as beloved by his community. “He doesn’t have any enemies at all, so we think there was something he knew with his work,“ Bejjani speculated.
Lebanese politicians condemned the crime and called for a quick investigation. Interior Minister Mohamed Fehmi confirmed that security forces were working to get to the bottom of the incident, local media reported.
“Rest assured that we will uncover the crime,” Fehmi said.
Lebanon’s Kataeb Party in Aley condemned the attack in a statement. “This sinful attack … is an attack on all Lebanese and it is a threat for civil peace and social stability,” it said.
In a tweet, Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel called for the “immediate identification” of the perpetrators and warned of Lebanon turning into a “rogue state” where “mafia crimes” are committed.
The head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Joumblatt, also condemned the attack and called on police to conduct swift investigations into the incident.
Following the murder, dozens of protesters blocked the Beirut-Damascus highway, which passes through Aley, demanding the attackers be brought to justice. Church bells rang in the background, mourning Bejjany.
“We want to send a message. We want a quick investigation and within 24 or 48 hours we want to have information,” Mayor Bejjani told MTV in a televised interview at the protest.
Bejjany’s murder comes after two other homicides in the last six months that bore the hallmarks of a hit job. Earlier this month, retired Customs Col. Mounir Abou Rjeily, who was formerly stationed at the Beirut port, was found dead in his Qartaba, Jbeil, home after sustaining blows to the head by a blunt object, the state-run National News Agency reported. In June, Antoine Dagher, a high-ranking executive at Byblos Bank, was found dead in the parking lot of his home in Hazmieh, Baabda, after sustaining a blow to the head.
There is no evidence that the murders are linked in any way.
None have been solved, with investigations still underway.