Lebanon probes Internet game that kills premier

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 06:23pm (Mla time) 08/31/2007

BEIRUT — An Internet game in which players raid the offices of Lebanon’s politically embattled premier, killing him and members of his cabinet, is under criminal investigation, a newspaper reported on Friday.


Court of Cassation prosecutor Saeed Mirza ordered the probe following complaints into the game “on how to raid the Serail electronically and kill those inside,” the leading An-Nahar daily said.


The action was “a prelude to judicial lawsuits against parties behind the game,” it said.


The Serail is the name of the building in which Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has his offices.


Information Minister Ghazi Aridi warned that the game, entitled “The battle of the Sarai, the final battle” exceeded the limits of entertainment and served no educational purpose.


“This…targets the safety and security of the country because it will only escalate grudges, conflicts and divisions,” he said, adding that the country could next witness a game that teaches youth how to raid the homes of Lebanese politicians.


“Battle of the Sarai” refers to the name of the building that houses the prime minister’s office. On Friday it could no longer be downloaded from the weblog on which it was posted earlier in the week — www.14march.blogspot.com


In a recent email to Agence France-Presse, the blogger refused to identify himself, claiming security concerns. He only said he was Lebanese and studying in London.


The game offers “the final battle…where you have to liberate the Sarai from the gang of 14.”


Players fight their way into the premier’s offices against “government militias” that have been trained in a tunnel linked to the US embassy.


The last phase of the game involves shooting down Siniora and members of his government before the screen reads: “Congratulations, game over.”


Ironically, the March 14 date in the blog’s Internet address is also the unofficial name of the parliamentary majority to which Siniora belongs.


The blog had also offered a game on the battle of Nahr al-Bared, the refugee camp in northern Lebanon where the army has been locked in fierce battles with Islamists since May.


The Lebanese, who fought a devastating 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, are particularly uneasy about anything related to political violence.


They have been even more on edge since February 2005, when former premier Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in a massive bombing in the capital. Since then, a number of other politicians and public figures have also been murdered.


The crimes have been widely blamed on Lebanon’s powerful neighbor and former powerbroker, Syria, which denies any links to them.


Lebanese politics have been virtually paralyzed since last November, after pro-Syrian parties walked out of the cabinet. A major contributing factor was their refusal to support a bid by Siniora to create an international court under UN auspices to try eventual suspects in the Hariri assassination.


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