Residents of the eastern city of Baalbek gathered Sunday to denounce rampant crime in their city and its environs, urging the implementation of strict security measures against ongoing offenses.
“Why does Baalbek have the highest number of arms licenses, tinted windows, vehicles without number plates, vehicles with loud horns? These licenses are being given to people with terrible criminal records,” Dr. Bashar Hasan of the Muslim Doctors Gathering said.
The remarks came during a joint press conference near the city's ancient ruins with several other local unions and civil society groups.
Baalbek, located in the northern part of the Bekaa Valley, is known to be a safe haven for fugitives, who enjoy political or local cover.
Kidnappings for ransom, car theft, arbitrary gunfire, and murder, among other crimes, are rife, both in the city and surrounding towns in the Baalbek district.
“What is the security forces’ role in suppressing these phenomena, and what do they do to put an end to stray bullets which are fired on all occasions?” Hasan continued.
He went on to ask why the city was still lacking in security, despite its entrances resembling a military base with their heavy army presence there.
Soldiers often clash with outlaws in Baalbek neighborhoods - particularly in Sharawneh - during raids and patrols.
Hasan called on political factions prominent in the area, such as Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the Future Movement, to take action and support security forces. He also linked the dismal security to the deteriorating economic situation in the city, which relies heavily on tourism.
Baalbek is home to some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world as well as the annual Baalbek International Summer Festival. However merchants have complained of a decrease in business recently, due to the city’s unsteady situation.
A petition under the name “No to security chaos” was launched Sunday, and will be signed by Baalbek's locals in the coming weeks. It will then be passed on to Baalbek-Hermel Governor Bashir Khodor, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and the Lebanese Army.
The gathering comes less than two days after kidnappers released a prominent Baalbek doctor after a three-day abduction ordeal.
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