Lebanese army ups security following car bomb attacks
A Lebanese woman puts on make-up near vehicles that were damaged in a bombing outside Al-Taqwa mosque on August 24, 2013 in the northern city of Tripoli. (AFP)
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The Lebanese Army increased its security measures around Tripoli Sunday as volunteers began cleaning the debris of the car bombs that ripped through two mosques in the northern city.
The military said in a statement it increased its patrol units and deployed soldiers in several neighborhoods and main streets in order to monitor people’s movements and prevent any violation of security.
The Army also erected several checkpoints at the main entrances of the city to inspect vehicles and check people’s identification cards.
Volunteers from organizations formed to support the two bombed mosques and other citizens began cleaning and removing debris scattered in the two neighborhoods after the blasts.
Car bombs ripped through Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques Friday, killing at least 45 people and wounding over 500 in what is seen as the country’s deadliest attack in decades.
The death toll could still rise and police asked the relatives of those who went missing after the explosions to undergo DNA testing to try and identify their loved ones with the remains found at the scene of the blasts.
Police have arrested two suspects in the blasts, Sheikh Ahmad Gharib, 40, and Sheikh Abdel Razzak Hammoud, who are members of the Tripoli-based Islamic Tawheed Movement, a pro-Syrian regime group headed by Hashem Minkara, according to judicial sources.
Salafist sheikhs Salem al-Rafi and Bilal Baroudi who are staunch critics of President Bashar Assad were suspected of being the target of the blasts.
LBCI television aired a video of al-Rafi giving his Friday sermon at Al-Taqwa Mosque the moment the explosion occurred. The explosion can be heard in the footage as smoke and debris begin to fly.
The blasts came days after a car bomb exploded in the commercial neighborhood of Ruwaiss in Beirut’s southern suburbs, leaving 30 people dead.
The explosions raised fears the country could be slipping into further violence linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria as Lebanese are sharply divided between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime.
A delegation from the Higher Relief Committee inspected the buildings damaged as a result of the bomb near Al-Taqwa Mosque and began paying shelter allowance for those whose residences were completely destroyed, according to the National News Agency.
A delegation from Ogero, Lebanon's state-run telecom provider, also arrived to Tripoli to begin repair work on the telecommunications network damaged in the explosion.
The Higher Defense Council is scheduled to convene Monday morning chaired by President Michel Sleiman to discuss the latest security developments including the recent bombings.
Sleiman made an urgent appeal to political leaders Saturday night in a televised speech, asking them to form a new government, return to the National Dialogue table and commit to the policy of disassociation.
Relatives of the martyrs and Dar al-Fatwa in north Lebanon as well as members of the municipalities of Tripoli, Mina, Baddawi will accept condolences in the city following prayers.