Order restored in Tripoli as Lebanese Army seizes last militant bastion
Oct. 27, 2014
Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanese commandos, backed by helicopter gunships, seized the headquarters of an Islamist militant leader Monday, on the fourth day of clashes that have rocked Lebanon’s second city, leaving 42 people dead and some 150 wounded.
A military source confirmed that the Abdullah bin Masoud Mosque, the stronghold of Shadi Mawlawi and his partner Osama Mansour, militant commanders reportedly linked to the Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front, had fallen into the hands of the Lebanese Army.
The source told The Daily Star troops had combed the area around the mosque, which is inside the restive Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood. Security sources told The Daily Star that soldiers found the mosque empty of militants. They believe the gunmen had melted away, their faces clean-shaven and dressed in civilian clothes, before the Army advance began early Monday morning. They said that while the operation in Bab al-Tabbaneh was over, soldiers were still hunting for wanted men and other suspects in connection with attacks against the Army, after they fled into the orchards of the northern towns of Minyeh, Mhamra and Bhenin. By midday, at least 162 gunmen had been arrested, according to the sources. Army helicopters continued to chase fugitive gunmen from Bhenin to the Oyoun al-Samak region, while Army surveillance aircraft flew over the towns and villages of Akkar, Minyeh and Dinnieh and Nahr al-Bared River. The Lebanese Army called on gunmen to hand themselves in, or be hunted down. In a statement, the military urged “remnants of fleeing armed groups” to surrender to the Lebanese Army. It said the Army would hunt them down in their hideouts and vowed to continue pursuing them until they are arrested and brought to justice. The sources said the Army was resolute in the crackdown on armed militants and was taking a no-compromise approach. Security sources earlier told The Daily Star that the Army had sealed off all entrances to the vegetable market as troops prepared to storm the militants’ stronghold in Bab al-Tabbaneh.
As the soldiers surrounded the Abdullah bin Masoud Mosque, troops fanned out through the surrounding neighborhood, combing the streets for militants, the sources said. They said the early morning push followed the evacuation of citizens from the neighborhood. The sources said among the fatalities were 23 gunmen, 11 soldiers and eight civilians. Among the wounded were 92 soldiers, and 63 gunmen and civilians. There was no resistance from gunmen when the Army advance began around 6:30 a.m. Earlier Monday, unknown assailants tossed a hand grenade towards a police station in the Tripoli neighborhood of Mina. No casualties were reported. However, three cars were damaged in the 5 a.m. attack.
The four days of running street battles between Lebanese troops and militants in Tripoli and the northern district of Minyeh represented the worst bout of Syria-related violence in Lebanon since ISIS and the Nusra Front briefly overran the northeastern border town of Arsal in August, leaving dead 19 troops and dozens of militants. Prime Minister Tammam Salam, who pledged full political support for the Army in its battle against terrorism Sunday, chaired a security meeting Monday at the Grand Serail in Beirut with the heads of several security bodies. Meanwhile, the Nusra Front threatened to execute Ali Bazzal, one of 27 Lebanese servicemen being held captive by the Islamist militants, at 5 a.m. Monday after accusing the Lebanese Army of “cheating to gain time” and failing to meet its demand to end the offensive in Tripoli. No news of his fate has emerged, hours after the deadline passed. In a statement posted on a Twitter account, Nusra Front said it listed the name of captive George Khoury on the hit list as a means of pressure to avoid a further deterioration of the internal situation in Lebanon.
North Lebanon offensive nears end: Salam
Oct. 27, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The four-day Army offensive in north Lebanon is drawing to a close after troops made significant advances against Islamist militants, Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Monday. “The decision has been made, and it is to be firm with terrorists and terrorism,” Salam told reporters on a flight to Berlin. “We cannot surrender or move backward.”The premier is traveling to Germany for an international conference to support Lebanon amid the Syrian refugee crisis. “The military confrontation was imposed on us by the terrorists,” Salam added. “But the patriotic stance was a choice, and it allowed the Army and security forces to confront this great challenge and succeed.”But he cautioned that Lebanon’s troubles may not be over, as security incidents are impossible to predict.
“I believe we have made real advances in imposing security and stability in Tripoli, the north and all over Lebanon,” he said. The remarks came during the fourth day of an Army offensive in Tripoli and other parts of north Lebanon to root out militants. The fighting was sparked after militants in Tripoli attacked an Army position near the old souks Friday night. At least 42 people were killed in the ensuing battles over the next three days in Tripoli and the northern towns of Minyeh, Mhamra and Bhenin. Security sources told The Daily Star that 162 militants have been arrested as of mid-Monday across the north since the clashes broke out. Salam is due to attend the latest conference of the International Support Groups for Lebanon over the Syrian refugee crisis.
“There are 29 countries and 10 international organizations working with German sponsorship to help Lebanon and neighboring countries carry the great burden of Syrian refugees,” he said. More than 1.1 million Syrians have registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Lebanon since the outbreak of the neighboring crisis in March 2011.
Higher Islamic Council lends support to Lebanon Army
The Daily Star/Oct. 27, 2014/Thair Abbas
BEIRUT: The deputy head of Lebanon’s top Sunni authority condemned attacks on the Army Monday, but called for the military to treat residents of all communities equally and free the country of “illegitimate” weapons. “The council refuses all attempts to … drag [Muslims] toward a confrontation with the Lebanese Army,” the Higher Islamic Council’s deputy head Omar Miskawi said at a news conference. The council “stresses on the commitment to a strong, just state without discriminating between various areas or citizens,” he added. Miskawi made the comments after a meeting called by Grand Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian to discuss the situation in Tripoli and north Lebanon in light of the fierce weekend clashes between the Army and militants. “The council stresses on imposing the state’s authority and establishing its prestige, and enforcing the law … on everybody in all Lebanese areas without exception,” the statement said. The council, which is responsible for carrying out the affairs of Dar al-Fatwa, condemned the calls for defection from the Army by extremists. Miskawi also spoke on the need to protect Tripoli’s heritage, its civilians and their property, and to quickly compensate them for losses during the deadly battle. The recent events in the northern city are the result of “decades of negligence and lack of serious development,” he added. This, the council said, should prompt the state to immediately start implementing a concrete action plan to revive Tripoli’s economy and develop social and health services. At least 11 Army soldiers, 23 militants and eight civilians have been killed over four days of fighting in northern Lebanon since the clashes broke out late Friday. The violence largely subsided Monday after soldiers took over Tripoli’s Abdullah bin Masoud Mosque, which was being used as a headquarters by militants.
Lebanon: Fighting in Tripoli comes to a halt
27.10.14/Tripoli and Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fighting between Islamists and the Lebanese army in the northern city of Tripoli appeared to have stopped on Monday morning, in the latest flare-up in the city of violence spilling over from the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Samir Jisr, a Sunni Muslim politician from the city, told Reuters on Monday the army’s operation to empty the city of the Islamist fighters was now “over” and that the army was carrying out mopping-up operations to clear out any remaining gunmen.
According to eyewitnesses, fierce street battles erupted on Friday, as Islamist fighters believed to be members or supporters of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) entered the market district of the city.
Security officials told reporters that at least 11 soldiers, eight civilians and 22 gunmen had been killed during the fighting. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday, Lebanon’s Interior Minister Mashnouq put the number of Islamist fighters in the city at not above 200, and said they were made up of Lebanese and Syrians citizens. The Minister warned that the battle would not be “a quick one . . . It will take a long time,” though he added that the Lebanese army would “have the last word” once the fighting was done.
It is unclear at this stage if the army has won a decisive victory in the city, or if Mashnouq’s prediction will be proved right. Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon, has been the scene of periodic outbreaks of violence since the uprising in Syria began in 2011, with clashes between local groups supporting different sides in the conflict prompting the government to deploy troops as peacekeepers on several occasions. The latest clashes between the army and Islamist militants also comes after fierce fighting between the Lebanese security forces and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the town of Arsal, on the Syrian border, in August. Former youth and sports minister Faisal Karami, and who hails from the Tripoli, told Asharq Al-Awsat the army had found fighting in the city difficult due to the need to avoid civilians casualties. “These fighters are concentrated in areas where there are civilians and children, whom they [the fighters] have effectively turned into hostages, and so the army is finding it difficult to resolve [the crisis] for these humanitarian reasons,” he said.
But reports on Monday said civilians in the city had been evacuated from these areas following a humanitarian ceasefire negotiated between the fighters and local Sunni leaders. The exact whereabouts of the fighters remain unknown, and some security officials have suggested they may have left the city during the civilian evacuation.
Tripoli Clashes Persist as Gunmen Abduct Soldier, Army Evacuates Civilians, Continues to ‘Eradicate Terrorism‘
Naharnet/The army forces spread in Tripoli continued on Sunday its military operations in the city, where the clashes were renewed with the armed groups that kidnapped on Sunday morning one of the soldiers from his house. Meanwhile, the army confirmed to continue eliminating the terrorists. Media reported that, “a ceasefire declaration in al-Medea after calls from the Muslim Scholars Committee and after the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian called the Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji,” but the army sources denied it.
Military sources to LBCI: No agreement on a cease-fire in Tripoli and what is happening is only a process to facilitate the exit of civilians. “A cease-fire will not happen between the regular army and armed groups that could exploit any truce to attack again on the army,” it added. “We will continue our operations until we eliminate all terrorist acts and the rumors about an attempts to eject the gunmen is not true,” said the army. After cautious calmness prevailed in the city for some time, the clashes on the Syria Street borders, Souk al-Khoudar, Souk al-Ghourabaa and al-Ahmar Square and the Souk al-Kameh, according to the media. “20 ambulance cars inside them dozens of paramedics to the places of clashes in al-Tabbaneh, to evacuate the wounded, and help whoever needs help,” the media reported. Earlier on Sunday the army continued its fighting against armed groups in the northern city of Tripoli and the nearby regions as it revealed that gunmen abducted a soldier from the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood.It added in a statement that it was also continuing its deployment in the neighborhood and responding to the sources of gunfire by the gunmen. Its deployment was accompanied by raids against the positions of gunmen. It later announced that gunmen kidnapped First Adjutant Fayez al-Ammoury from his residence in Bab al-Tabbaneh. Efforts are underway to release him, the military added. Meanwhile, the National News Agency reported on Sunday that the situation in Tripoli had deteriorated at dawn with clashes erupting in Bab al-Tabbaneh between the army and gunmen.
The fighting broke out in the vegetable market, Talaat al-Omari, al-Bisar, and Syria Street areas. A child, Ali al-Sheikh, was killed in the clashes, while two people are being treated for wounds at the nearby government hospital. Rocket-propelled grenades and light, medium, and heavy weapons were used in the unrest, added NNA. The army had also employed helicopters to fly over the Bab al-Tabbaneh area.Several houses and stores were damaged in the fighting.
Clashes Between Army, Gunmen in Bhannine, Four soldiers Killed After Being Ambushed
Naharnet /The army continued its military operation on Sunday in the area of Bhannine- Minieh where violent clashes between it and gunmen took place. The army was ambushed by a terrorist group in Dhour Muhammara which led to the death of four soldiers, including two officers. The army stated, “During its deployment in the Dhour Muhammara, army troops were ambushed by a terrorist group.” “The army clashed with the gunmen and inflicted a number of gunmen,” during the clashes four soldiers, including two officers were killed,” it added. The army is still chasing the gunmen in Dhour Bhannine – Beit Ajaj – al-Rihaniyya down to the Nahr al-Bared power plant, according to the National News Agency. “A soldier was killed and another was critically injured due to the clashes between the army and gunmen in Bhannine,” it added. The army used machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, where they killed and wounded several in the ranks of the gunmen, meanwhile they are working to track down the rest. The clashes renewed, against the backdrop of the ambush.
“The army troops are prosecuting members of the armed group in the orchards, close to where the vehicle was attack,” stated the NNA. Earlier on Sunday clashes erupted between the army and an armed terrorist group in the Bhannine area in the northern region of Akkar. It announced in a statement that the group attacked the army from its position in the al-Salam-Bhannine school. A number of gunmen were wounded and others arrested in the ensuing unrest. The National News Agency identified the group as that of Sheikh Khaled Hoblos. Several of the attackers managed to escape the scene, leaving behind them a number of weapons and ammunition, continued the army. The military later managed to take control of the school, arresting a group affiliated with the cleric. In addition, the military announced that it had seized three booby-trapped vehicles parked near the school where the gunmen were situated. It also discovered a weapons cache, a number of military equipment, and 50 explosive devices. On Saturday, at least two army troops were killed and several others wounded in an armed attack on a military vehicle in the Akkar area of al-Mhammara, which was followed by clashes with gunmen loyal to Hoblos and a failed attempt to abduct five soldiers. The attacks came amid violent clashes between the army and gunmen in the nearby northern city of Tripoli, where two civilians and two gunmen were killed and around 20 troops and civilians were wounded. For the past few months, the military has been coming under increasing armed attacks, mainly in northern Lebanon. Since August, the Lebanese army has been fighting militants from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front on Lebanon’s northeastern border with Syria.
Support pours in for the Lebanese Army from across the political divide
Oct. 27, 2014/ The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Political figures voiced staunch support for the Lebanese Army Sunday, as the military fought to contain the worst outbreak of violence in north Lebanon in months. Clashes in north Lebanon erupted after an Army unit was attacked in the Tripoli neighborhood of Khan al-Askar Friday night in retaliation for the arrest of an alleged ISIS member detained Thursday during a raid in Dinnieh. The Lebanese Army launched a campaign targeting the hideouts of militants in Tripoli Sunday, after the fighting in the city’s old souks intensified overnight Saturday, with numerous civilians, soldiers and militants reported dead.
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri expressed her support for the Lebanese Army in a statement, mourning the destruction reaped in the northern capital. “All of Lebanon is bleeding today with the unfortunate and painful events in our beloved Tripoli and other northern areas,” read the statement issued Sunday.
Hariri contacted several figures to ensure that fallout from Tripoli would not reach Sidon, including Samir Shehadeh, the head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch in the south, and Ali Shahrour, the head of Army Intelligence in the south.
Hariri also contacted Maj. Gen. Sobhi Abu Arab, the Fatah Movement’s head of security, to maintain order in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai also lauded the efforts of the military during a Sunday Mass at the Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, where he traveled for an official visit.
“It pains all of us [to witness] the assault on the Lebanese Army in Tripoli,” Rai said. “And here we are today all of us expressing our full support to the military institution and the security forces in Lebanon.”
Defense Minister Samir Moqbel met Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi, who briefed him on the latest developments at the headquarters of the Army Command in Yarze.
Moqbel praised the thoroughness of Lebanese Army units deployed in the north, the speed with which they launched their offensive and their dedication to protecting civilians.
“The latest incidents in Tripoli reveal that the Army and other security forces are qualified and capable of defending Lebanon when the need arises,” Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said in a statement issued by his media office Sunday.
“As long as Muslim leadership in Lebanon remains vigilant and brave, and as long as military and security institutions in Lebanon remain ready, then Lebanon has nothing to fear,” he said, praising the leadership role of former premier Saad Hariri.
Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel also voiced his backing of the Army and the residents of Tripoli in a statement.
“All the Lebanese care about Tripoli’s wounds,” Gemayel said. “It is time to put an end to violations of national sovereignty and the security of the city and attacks on the Army.”
Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi expressed trust in the Army and its operations against extremists in Tripoli and Akkar, but said the military would soon need supplies.
“The Lebanese Army is now fighting a fierce war imposed on it by the takfiri groups,” Musawi said at a graduation ceremony in Tyre.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said Sunday the Army’s actions in north Lebanon weren’t against Sunnis. Rather, Rifi said he believes Hezbollah was trying to exploit the security situation to stir sectarian strife.
“Although we have a feeling that someone is hiding behind institutions to push for strife,” he said in a veiled reference to the resistance, “and we condemn this, we will not contribute to it by allowing for the state and its institutions to be undermined.”
“I heard some voices and sides describing the events in Tripoli now and other areas of the north as a war on the Sunni people,” Rifi said in his statement. “I reject such statements.”
Rifi said many Sunnis had been targeted because they stood with the state, mentioning late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and late Mufti Hasan Khaled.
Rifi also called on residents of north Lebanon to put their trust in the Future Movement.
Tripoli MPs and local officials called for an immediate cease-fire to the fighting in north Lebanon Sunday and held a meeting to reach that end which was attended by Rifi, a representative of former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the Muslim Scholars Committee and other officials.
Akkar’s mufti, however, criticized Sunday the military’s offensive and called on it to reconsider its campaign and the use of force in its battle against Tripoli’s jihadists, while pleading with extremists to stop attacking the Army.
“Who is pushing the Army toward a military solution against militants, even though it threatens the lives of soldiers and civilians?” Sheikh Zeid Zakaria asked in a statement.
“We reject the targeting of the state and its security agencies and Army, but we also reject the targeting of civilians and mosques, and we find no justification for the use of the air force and airstrikes killing innocent people.” – The Daily Star
Tears and sorrow as families lay Army soldiers to rest
Oct. 27, 2014’Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star
KFAR TIBNIT, Lebanon: Sorrow and tears abounded Sunday as Lebanon bid farewell to soldiers killed in clashes in north Lebanon over the weekend between the Army and ISIS-inspired militants. Hundreds of mourners, some firing weapons into the air, carried the flag-draped coffin of soldier Mohammad Ali Yaseen through an ordinarily quiet south Lebanon village Sunday after he was shot dead a day earlier by militants in the restive north. Women wailed in grief as the family passed his body through their home in Kfar Tibnit for a last time.“You must avenge his death and … all the other martyrs,” Yaseen’s uncle, Ahmad, told uniformed soldiers who took part in the funeral.Umm Hashem, Yaseen’s neighbor, addressed the women in the funeral march, telling them not to cry.
“Don’t cry. Ululate, because he fought takfiris and that is enough to call him a sergeant,” she said. Yaseen was killed in a militant ambush in the village of Mhamra in Dinnieh Saturday. Security sources told The Daily Star gunmen approached Yaseen and another soldier and shot at them, instantly killing one of them. The second soldier later died of wounds he sustained in the attack, the sources said. Lebanese troops battled Islamist militants behind attacks in Tripoli and the northern district of Minyeh for a third day Sunday with the death toll rising to 27. Also Sunday, 1st Lt. Firas al-Hakim was laid to rest in his hometown of Aley, private Ahmad al-Asaad was buried in Safinet al-Qaytaa in Akkar, recruit Abbas Ibrahim was buried in Shmestar In Baalbek, and recruit Jaafar Asaad was buried in Arida in Akkar.
Army seizes three rigged cars in north Lebanon
Oct. 26, 2014 |/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army seized three rigged cars in north Lebanon Sunday as it regained control over the district of Minyeh, the military said. The Army said it discovered an explosive-laden car the Bhanine village of Minyeh, hours after it had discovered two other rigged vehicles in the same area. The troops were also able to locate and surround a key jihadist leader after chasing him and his men into a seaside neighborhood. The statement said that along with the third car, a warehouse was found containing large quantities of weapons, ammunition and military equipment, as well as “50 explosive devices ready to be detonated.” The first two cars discovered – a Mercedes and a Renault Rapid – were rigged with explosives and rocket propelled grenades, and were found during raids on militant hideouts in Bhanine. Sources told The Daily Star that the Army troops were able to locate Sheikh Khaled Hablas of the Haroun Mosque and a group of his militiamen, imposing a siege on them near As-Sharq University at Minyeh’s coast. Using a military ship, aircraft and artillery, the Army has been pounding the besieged area from all sides, wounding Hablas and many of his men. Army units have been chasing other militants, who had escaped into orchards in Bhanine, near the village’s As-Salam School, after the troops had attacked militants hiding inside the school and wounded several of them as others fled. “The militants left behind large quantities of weapons and ammunition,” an Army statement said. “The Army also seized the two cars … rigged with explosives and rocket propelled grenades in the vicinity of [As-Salam] school.” Lebanese Army helicopters had begun pounding the hideouts of militants in Bhanine Saturday, after gunmen affiliated with Hablas killed two soldiers in the area and attempted to kidnapp five others in the morning. The Army has now seized the whole of the Minyeh district after taking control of the Haroun Mosque in Bhanine, from which a number of militants were captured after Army helicopters had pounded the area. Seven soldiers and one lieutenant wounded during the clashes were transported to the Sayde Hospital in Zgharta, while six soldiers and one sergeant wounded during the same gunfight were taken to the nearby Salam Hospital. Hablas had moved to the northern district at the beginning of the security plan in Tripoli in April. He preached in the mosques of Taqwa and al-Rahman in Bab al-Tabbaneh, recruiting a number of young men to his militia. The man and his group held many protests and demonstrations to demand the release of the Islamist militants detained at Roumieh Prison. In a speech Friday, Hablas called on Sunni soldiers to defect from the Army, and declare jihad against it. The Army raided his house in Minyeh Saturday afternoon, killing and detaining a number of his followers, but did not find the sheikh. A security source told The Daily Star that Hablas had close links to the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda linked fundamentalist group fighting in Syria. The Nusra Front has pledged to move its battle from Syria into Lebanon, announcing that it had recruited thousands of jihadists who are ready to act.
Nusra threaten to execute Lebanese soldier on Monday
Oct. 26, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Nusra Front threatened to execute Ali Bazzal, one of the Lebanese soldiers it is holding captive, at 5 a.m. Monday after accusing the Lebanese Army of “cheating to gain time” and failing to meet its demand to end the offensive against militants in Tripoli. In a statement posted on a Twitter account, the Nusra Front said it listed the name of captive George Khoury on the next hit list as a means of pressure to avoid a further deterioration of the internal situation in Lebanon. Nusra originally said it would execute Army solder Ali Bazzal at 10 a.m. Sunday in response to the Army’s crackdown on Tripoli jihadists. But Anadolu news agency later reported that the jihadists agreed to postpone the execution by four hours after the Muslim Scholars Committee pleaded with Nusra not to follow through with the killing. “We warn the Lebanese Army against escalating its military campaign against the Sunni people of Tripoli, and we demand that it breaks the siege and launch a peaceful compromise,” the fundamentalist group posted on its Twitter account just after midnight.”Otherwise, we will have to begin ending the kidnapped soldiers file gradually during the next hours,” it added. Nusra had previously executed Mohammad Hamieh, while ISIS had beheaded two Army soldiers. The two groups still hold captive about 27 Army soldiers and policemen they kidnapped during the five-day battle with the Army in the northeastern town of Arsal in early August. Seven others have previously been released. The Muslim Scholars Committee, which had at one point served as a mediator in the negotiations to free the captives, urged militants not to kill any of the servicemen, saying that such actions would further complicate the situation. At least 28 people were killed in running battles between Lebanese troops and ISIS-inspired militants in Tripoli, north Lebanon. The clashes started Friday night with an attack on a Lebanese Army unit, and escalated to a full military campaign to rid the northern city of jihadists plotting attacks in the country.
Decision to combat terror supersedes all else, Salam says
Hasan Lakkis| The Daily Star/Oct. 27, 2014/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam reassured visitors to his home Sunday that he was in constant contact with the military leadership, which is doing everything to eliminate terrorist groups from Tripoli. “The military and security measures taken by the armed forces, and our choice [to combat] terrorism, are irreversible,” he emphasized, while admitting that the battle ahead would not be easy. Lebanese troops battled Islamist militants behind attacks in Tripoli and the northern district of Minyeh for a third day Sunday with the death toll rising to 27. “It is true that there are complications and accumulation [of problems], and addressing these is not easy either, but the firm decision must supersede all else,” Salam said. “We have no choice but to continue curbing terrorism and eliminate it by any means. They [militants] must not be allowed to control certain neighborhoods and limit the freedom of citizens. Therefore, it is vital to strengthen the role of [state] authority, grant people relief and put an end to terrorism. It is unacceptable for any power, for any goals or targets claimed by terrorist groups, to abuse the country or its citizens.” He said “terrorists have their own methods of mobilizing, of hitting and running, and this is what is happening presently. It will not necessarily be resolved quickly and easily.”Salam said “political measures are being carried out to coincide with security measures, and rumors that terrorists have found a welcoming environment in Lebanon are false, as evidenced by the clear position toward the state, the Army and legitimate [security] forces taken by the political leadership in response to events.”As to whether the events in Tripoli could force him to reconsider his trip to Germany scheduled for Monday, Salam said “my trip to Germany is only for 24 hours, and it is in the interests of the country concerning a national issue that has begun to take on dangerous dimensions,” as well as the refugee issue, which is “very important and must be addressed as a national issue.” “I will not be absent from developments in Tripoli and throughout Lebanon,” he vowed. Salam said he has been following from the start what has been happening in the north and is in constant contact with the military and security leadership as well as relevant political figures. He said the terrorist groups first tried to hide among civilians in the narrow streets of Tripoli, but that was thwarted. They then moved to Minyeh, where they tried to take refuge in the mosque just as they earlier sought refuge in a church in Tripoli, but that attempt was also thwarted “to prevent harm to citizens,” especially after it came to light that these terrorists were on the verge of carrying out a plan to boobytrap and destroy a university building that had recently been built in the area. Salam said these militants had resorted to methods such as intimidation and violence in order to ignite strife in the country. He added that the old souks in Tripoli had been cleared of terrorists and efforts were now underway to root out such groups from Bab al-Tabbaneh. Salam also said that the government takes the Nusra Front’s threat to execute more hostages “very seriously,” adding that “this is one of the challenges that we face.”
Nusra Front claims responsibility for Bekaa rocket fire
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Two rockets fired by Nusra Front militants crashed on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Labweh in the Bekaa Valley Sunday, security sources said. In a statement posted on a Nusra-affiliated Twitter page, the group claimed responsibility for firing grads at a “Hezbollah stronghold” in Labweh. The rocket attack caused some crops to catch fire, but there were no reports of casualties. Jihadist militants trapped along the Lebanon-Syria border fire rockets towards Lebanese villages during periods of heightened security tensions in Lebanon. The latest attack comes amid a three-day Army offensive against militants in northern Lebanon. At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between the Army and militants in Tripoli and the northern Akkar region since Friday night.
Time to end Tripoli wound
Oct. 27, 2014/The Daily Star/As the tragedy of Tripoli flares up again, the Lebanese Army must take advantage of the enormous support it is being given to end this extremist plot against Lebanon once and for all. The violence in Tripoli and surrounding areas has been erupting again and again over the last few years, ever since the civil war began in Syria, but the roots of the problem were there before, and have not yet been truly addressed, hence the recurrent nature of the fighting. But while it is necessary to combat the roots of the problem, a security solution must now be the top priority for authorities. Civilians and Army personnel cannot keep dying on the streets of Tripoli, while the city’s economy and reputation suffer, tarnishing the entire country at the same time. The Army has repeatedly sought to implement security plans for the northern city, and while these have often worked for a time, eventually various obstacles, whether sectarian, political or logistical, have prevented peace from enduring. It appears that extremist elements based in the north want to wear the Army down, deplete its resources and manpower, and distract it from other areas in Lebanon. Now, though, the Army must take advantage of the wide support it is getting, from religious and political leaders, of all sects and groups, and the international backing it is receiving.The Lebanese are understandably weary after years of watching their countrymen killed and their northern capital torn to pieces as if it is itself part of the Syrian battlefield. The time is now for the conflict to end once and for all.