Lebanese Interior Minister: Civilian presence complicates fighting militants at border
Lebanese security forces and forensics check the site of a bomb blast in Zahle, near the border with Syria. (AFP/Hassan Jarrah)
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Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said that the presence of civilians along Lebanon’s northeastern border has prevented the army from resolving the militant crisis.
In an interview with the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, Machnouk said that a military confrontation with militant groups on the outskirts of the border of town of Arsal was far off, citing the huge presence of civilians in the area.
“What is happening now in terms of the long-range targets against the militants by the [Lebanese] Army, is the best possible solution, until there is a final solution,” he said.
Lebanese troops frequently launch preemptive strikes against Daesh and the Fatah al-Sham Front – formerly known as the Nusra Front-who are entrenched on the outskirts of Arsal near the tense border area with Syria. The bombardment is meant to keep the militants at bay.
The town was briefly overrun by extremists in August 2014, when extremists captured a number of Lebanese soldiers and policemen, in the worst spillover of the Syrian war to date.
It is believed that nine soldiers are still being held captive by Daesh.
Machnouk’s comments come one day after a roadside bomb in the eastern city of Zahle. The attack, which killed an elderly Syrian beggar and wounded 11 others, was the first in two weeks in the restive Bekaa Valley.
Last month, a roadside bombing, blamed on Daesh, lightly wounded five soldiers traveling in a military vehicle in Arsal, where most of these types of attacks occur.
In June, eight suicide bombers blew themselves up in the border village of Al-Qaa, just north of Arsal, killing five citizens and wounding more than 30 others.
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