Weekend murder In Btedaai, stirs tensions in Baalbek Rakan al-Fakih/Nidal al-Solh/The Daily Star
Nov. 17, 2014
BAALBEK, Lebanon: The killing of Nadimeh Fakhri and the wounding of her son and husband in Btedaai, west of Baalbek have opened the door to security chaos in the Bekaa Valley.
It has emerged that the Fakhri family is Christian and the murderers belong to the Shiite Jaafar clan, which exerts huge pressure on the area’s political, security and tribal local community, in particular Hezbollah.
The criminals are wanted by the security forces and were fleeing extensive raids by the Lebanese Army in the Dar al-Wasaa area when they committed the crime.
The husband is in critical condition. The son, Romeo, was hit by two bullets but is in stable condition.
Speaker Nabih Berri Sunday voiced support for the security plan being implemented by the Lebanese Army in the Bekaa Valley.
“Our people in the Bekaa have been harmed by kidnappings, thefts and other acts at the hands of some thugs in the region,” Berri was quoted as saying by visitors at his Ain al-Tineh residence.
He said the Army had a free hand to crack down on outlaws in the Bekaa region, adding that political parties and tribes would not give protection to any criminal.
The incident prompted the local community and the residents of Deir al-Ahmar and other neighboring areas to meet in the Baalbek-Deir al- Ahmar Maronite Diocese, headed by Bishop Semaan Atallah.
The head of the union of municipalities Milad Aaqoury, the mayor of Deir al-Ahmar and the mukhtars of the area were among those who attended the meeting.
After the meeting a statement was released, saying: “The ‘outlaws’ committed their crime while they were fleeing toward the Baalbek valley and as they passed through the village of Btedaai. They went into the Fakhri family’s house while they were sleeping, with the intent of taking their SUV, which led to the hideous murder that took place. We consider this assault an assault on every house in the area.
“We hold the Jaafar clan responsible for the crime … We ask them to present those involved in the crime to the security forces in order for us to put them on trial and punish them so we can eliminate strife.”
The statement demanded that all Lebanese institutions remove any protection afforded to criminals and called on the Lebanese Army command to continue its security operation to the fullest extent in order to strengthen its presence in the area.
The Jaafar clan also held a meeting Sunday, to discuss the demand to hand over the perpetrators, and to coordinate the clan’s stance on the crime.
Speaking to The Daily Star, one of the leaders of the Jaafar clan, Abu Assad Jaafar, explained his version of the incident.
He said some of the wanted members of his group were on good terms with the Fakhri family and were used to hiding in their house while on the run from the Army. So when one of their cars broke down while they were being chased Saturday, the Jaafar members had gone to the Fakhri house to try to get a substitute car.
Events only turned violent when the family would not give it to them, he said.
The Jaafars issued a statement late Sunday condemning the killing and urging the judiciary to pursue investigations into the issue. They said they would not accept any attacks on their Christian “brethren.”
The extended Fakhri family protested at the entrance of Deir al-Ahmar-Shilfa near Baalbek, where they blocked the main road. Father Hanna Rahmi, Aaqoury, Btedaai Mayor Samir Fakhri and Bashwat Mayor Hamid Kayrouz joined them, along with representatives from the local area.
Rahmi, deputy general of the Baalbek-Deir al-Ahmar Maronite Diocese, emphasized that no one should cover up for these criminals.
“Those responsible for the crime are known to be from our loved ones, the Jaafar clan,” Rahmi said. “They should take responsibility to protect coexistence.”
Patrick Sobhi Fakhri, another son of the family, said the family would not be satisfied by mere statements of condemnation from the Jaafar family.
He also slammed the government’s silence: “We love the government and we are under its umbrella, but what the government is saying today is protect yourself on your own. We want the government to protect us.”
The motorcade for the funeral took off from Fakhri’s house and went to St. Nahra Church in Btedaai, where a Mass was held at 3 p.m. by Bishop Atallah, his assistant Elias Rahan and Father Rahmi, in the presence of religious, political and local officials.
“These crimes are rare and are classified as terror attacks,” Atallah said. “While we were afraid of terrorism on the border, here it is coming from inside and targeting an otherwise calm town.