Lebanese army cracks down on Tripoli protests, angering demonstrators
The Lebanese Army deployed heavily in several parts of Tripoli Friday, preventing demonstrators from protesting against ongoing security measures in the city, as the military prosecutor issued additional warrants.
Troops in armored personnel carriers fanned out across the city and soldiers kept an eye over rooftops, blocking major roads leading to Nour Square ahead of a scheduled march by protesters from the mainly neighborhood of Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh.
The army set up checkpoints, frisking motorists and searching for illegal weapons.
The measures prevented the demonstrators from reaching the protest site, forcing organizers to call off the march, which was planned to start after Friday prayers.
In addition to the military measures, political figures in Tripoli were in communication with organizers in an attempt to dissuade them from going through with the protest, which was mainly in objection of arrest warrants for Tripoli residents. Local figures had feared clashes between soldiers and protesters.
Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr issued some 200 arrest warrants for wanted suspects in Tripoli and other parts of the country as part of the security plan that began earlier this month in a bid to end years of Syria-linked violence that has plagued Triploli and the Bekaa Valley. Locals in Bab al-Tabbaneh have protested a spate of arrests made by the Army during the two-week crackdown.
Military Investigative Judge Nabil Wehbe charged another 14 individuals from Bab al-Tabbaneh Friday in connection with opening fire, murder and attempted murder. Twelve of the suspects remain at large, a judicial source told The Daily Star.
The source said three well-known militia commanders were among the charged – Ziad Alloukeh, Saadeddine al-Masri and Farouk al-Masri.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Tripoli began installing surveillance cameras in several neighborhoods and streets, in line with the plan.
The cameras were installed at the Azmi crossroad to capture all suspicious movements. The other cameras will be installed gradually in all the main squares and streets of the city.
The surveillance footage will be sent automatically to the security chamber at the municipality, supervised by officer Rabih al-Hafez from the Internal Security Forces.
The security plan for Tripoli has been adopted by the Cabinet following at least 20 rounds of gunbattles between supporters of President Bashar Assad in the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and rivals in Bab al-Tabbaneh. Some of the issued arrest warrants targeted fighters in Jabal Mohsen as well.
In the northern Bekaa Valley town of Hermel, security services have so far detained five wanted suspects in continuation of an Army-led crackdown to restore stability in the region that began Thursday. Authorities also raided areas in the village of Brital that were once considered off-limits in search of wanted individuals, including heads of kidnapping rings and drug dealers.
The Army along with members of the ISF set up checkpoints in several Bekaa Valley towns, inspecting vehicles and checking identification cards in search of wanted individuals.
In a statement, the Army said the suspects were apprehended Thursday during house raids in Brital, Hor Taala and Majdaloun.
The statement said one suspect – identified as A.M. – was wanted in a series of abductions, including the kidnapping and robbing of a Syrian national. It said the other two suspects, N.M. and A.A., were wanted in connection with shooting incidents.
The statement added that two stolen vehicles were confiscated during the clampdown.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tammam Salam held talks with Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi at the Grand Serail Friday to discuss the expansion of the security plan to other areas in the Bekaa Valley.
In a separate statement, the ISF said it arrested two Syrians involved in last month’s abduction of a 9-year-old boy in the Bekaa Valley town of Zahle. They were identified as A.S. and A.H.
The ISF also said that police confiscated stolen vehicles. Vehicles used in car bombings and suicide attacks in the past months were stolen by car thieves with links to Brital. The cars were later sold to armed groups in Syrian rebel-held territories who rigged and detonated them.
Separately, Kahwagi received U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale at the Defense Ministry in Yarzeh. The two discussed several local and regional issues.
Kahwagi also discussed security issues with First Investigative Military Judge Riad Abu Ghayda.
By Misbah al-Ali, Rakan al-Fakih