The Lebanese army arrested 83 suspects during their hunt for remaining militants in north Lebanon Tuesday, as families were returning to the embattled port city of Tripoli following clashes that left 42 people dead and more than 150 wounded.
The troops chased the fugitive gunmen in the area north of Tripoli, conducting raids during which 83 suspects were arrested, military sources told The Daily Star.
The army blocked the main highway linking the area of Minyeh with the Syrian border as troops carried out raids in nearby Bhenin, the sources added.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, an army statement said soldiers had apprehended 33 people suspected of belonging to terrorist groups while searching the areas of Minyeh, Ayoun al-Samak, the orchards of old Akkar, Akroum and Nabi Yousheh.
Fighting in Tripoli ended Monday after the army seized a mosque in the city’s Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood that had been used as a stronghold by militants inspired by ISIS and the Nusra Front.
The four days of battles between the Lebanese army and militants devastated swaths of the troubled streets and left residents in shock as they took stock of the damage inflicted on their property.
With army reinforcements arriving in Tripoli, troops set up permanent and random checkpoints in Bab al-Tabbaneh and nearby Al-Tal, Mina, Zahrieh and Abi Samra.
Soldiers also conducted foot patrols in and around Tripoli.
“Stability has been restored in Tripoli,” Future Movement MP Ammar Houri said. “Residents are going back to the city.”
Meanwhile, commando units pursued remaining militants who fled toward the orchards or the barren peaks.
Security sources said the army was hunting a group of gunmen spotted heading from Ayoun al-Samak toward the outskirts of Akkar and Arbeen mountains.
Army reconnaissance planes were also flying over Bhenin looking for fugitives.
Soldiers also detonated a hand grenade found near a UN center on the road between Qobeiyat and Andqet.
Asoun Mayor Motasem Abdul-Kader said there was no presence of ISIS or Nusra Front “sleeper cells” in this northern village in the Dinnieh area of north Lebanon.
But the mayor expressed concerns that militants who fled the gunbattles in Bab al-Tabbaneh have likely sought shelter in Asoun.
“We are fully cooperating with the security forces and we are conducting joint patrols in the village,” Abdul-Kader told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.
He urged the army to set up permanent positions in Dinnieh.
Asoun was the scene of a military raid last week. The Lebanese army captured one of its highest value terror suspects yet in a dramatic pre-dawn raid and gunbattle Thursday that led to the arrest of a senior ISIS-linked suspect accused of recruiting young Lebanese to fight with the group.
Three gunmen were killed during the raid to arrest Ahmad Mikati, who is also a relative of a jihadist involved in the beheading of a captive Lebanese soldier.
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