BEIRUT: Authorities are expected to release one of two sheikhs apprehended for interrogation over Friday’s car bombs in the northern city, as the Lebanese Army increased its security measures around Tripoli Sunday and residents cleaned up after the explosions.
Police are expected to release Sheikh Abdel Razzak Hammoud who was apprehended for questioning Saturday while Sheikh Ahmad Gharib is to remain in custody for further interrogation, a judicial source told The Daily Star.
According to the source, Gharib's arrest was due to his appearance in surveillance video near Al-Salam Mosque at the time of the explosion. The sheikh is not known to frequent the city and is not from Tripoli.
Gharib is close to the Syrian intelligence agency and is considered a link between the agency and Hashem Minkara, head of the pro-Syrian regime, Islamic group Tawheed Movement which is based in Tripoli.
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.
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.
Some Salafist figures said they have begun to implement their own security measures similar to Hezbollah, which erected checkpoints around Beirut’s southern suburbs and took security matters into its own hands.
Tripoli MPs with the Future parliamentary bloc and the Future Movement's office in the city rejected calls for citizens to arm, saying there is no alternative to the state.
"The attendees affirmed that there is no alternative to the state and the security it provides," MP Samir Jisr read a statement by the party during a news conference.
The MPs also asked security forces to beef up security around places of worship, calling for full coordination among the security agencies to reveal the perpetrators behind the attack and maintain security in the city.
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.
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.