Lebanon gang arrested after deadly raid on Syria border
The Lebanese Army apprehended Saturday four gunmen who were trying to flee from Arsal, the country’s defense minister said, a day after an ambush on the military claimed the lives of an officer and a soldier in the border town.
“The [Lebanese] Army arrested four gunmen who were trying to make their way out to the outskirts of Arsal,” Fayez Ghosn told the LBCI television station, referring to the eastern town that borders Syria.
According to the minister, Army Intelligence managed to obtain a list of the gunmen involved in the ambush on the military Friday.
“The army is carrying out raids and searching Arsal to arrest the wanted suspects in the area,” Ghosn added.
Friday’s ambush on the army led to the death of Captain Pierre Bashalani, 31, and Sergeant Ibrahim Zahraman, 32, the military said.
The Army said the deaths were the result of an ambush by gunmen on a military patrol on the outskirts of Arsal, which borders Syria. The soldiers were attempting to apprehend a man wanted “for several terrorist acts,” the military said.
Several gunmen and members of the military were also wounded in the fighting.
Security sources told The Daily Star that Khalid Hmayyed, the wanted man, was killed in a clash with the army, which prompted retaliation by gunmen in the area.
Earlier Saturday the army beefed up its security measures in Arsal, security sources said, by cordoning off the town and setting up checkpoints at its entrance.
Meanwhile in the north of the country, the relatives of Zahraman blocked several roads to protest what they said was the failure by authorities to apprehend those behind the killing of their loved one.
They blocked the Sheikh Mohammad and Halba roads in the northern area of Akkar in protest, security sources said.
In its statement late Friday, the army urged Arsal residents to cooperate fully with the measures the military would take in its efforts to apprehend the gunmen involved in the incident.
It also warned that it would not be lenient “with any attempt to smuggle or hide the gunmen, and those caught committing such acts will be subject to legal prosecution.”
Local media reports said Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi, who left to Paris Wednesday, has decided to cut short his visit to France following the incident and will return to Beirut later Saturday.
Politicians over the weekend condemned the attack on the Army.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the incident was “unacceptable under any pretext.”
“We are in a state governed by the rule of law and [we] denounce any attack against the state, its military and security institutions,” the head of the Future parliamentary bloc said in a statement.
Siniora also said the state should extend its authority throughout the country and voiced opposition to the logic of “security by consensus.”
“The experiences of Lebanese have shown that there is no such thing as security by consensus and that it is unacceptable to have areas outside the control of the state,” he said.
MP Sami Gemayel voiced support to the military.
“God Bless our Army, heroes and martyrs,” he said in a Twitter post Saturday.
“It’s time for all the Lebanese parties to stop tolerating any illegal weapons on Lebanese soil,” he added.