BEIRUT: The Higher Defense Council decided Monday to provide security bodies in Lebanon with equipment needed to better preserve stability after a series of bomb attacks left nearly 80 people dead this month.
“It was agreed that heads of security bodies will hand caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati lists of their needs and the caretaker government will provide the funds to secure these needs,” a source who attended the council’s meeting told The Daily Star.
The source, who requested to remain anonymous, said that equipment would be provided to the Army, General Security and Internal Security Forces to help them better preserve security in the country.
The special meeting chaired by President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace came three days after car bomb attacks near Al-Salam and Al-Taqwa Mosques in Tripoli killed at least 47 people and wounded over 500.
Earlier this month, a blast in the Ruwaiss neighborhood of the Beirut southern suburbs claimed the lives of 30 people and wounded scores more.
“The council discussed terrorist operations which are targeting different districts with the aim of undermining civil peace and sparking strife among the Lebanese,” a statement issued after the meeting said.
“The council discussed measures needed to beef up the readiness of the Army, the Internal Security Forces and the Civil Defense to preserve order and protect people, institutions, public and private properties and places of worship,” the statement added.
On his way to the council meeting, Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi voiced confidence that Lebanon would weather the turmoil in the region.
“Given the unstable situation in the region, our situation in Lebanon is still OK and the country will survive,” Kahwagi told reporters.
Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr extended the detention of Sheikh Abdel-Razzak Hammoud and Sheikh Ahmad Gharib for two days in order to continue interrogating them over the Tripoli attack.
The extension came after the two gave conflicting testimonies. Both Hammoud and Gharib were arrested one day after the explosion.
Gharib’s arrest was due to his appearance in a surveillance video taken near Al-Salam Mosque at the time of the blast. “There are some leads that the investigating team is working on but we should not be overoptimistic,” a judicial source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star.
According to the source, investigators have confirmed that a four wheel drive Ford was detonated near Al-Salam Mosque.
However, the source said investigators have yet to confirm what car was detonated outside Al-Taqwa Mosque.
“Investigators are trying to confirm whether it was a GMC or a Renault 18 vehicle,” the source said.
Video footage from cameras installed near the mosques where the car bombs detonated is still being analyzed.
Investigators are also trying to determine whether the cars were detonated remotely or timers were used.
Saqr also ordered that the bodies of seven victims be handed over to their families after DNA tests were completed.
Meanwhile, tension reigned in Tripoli, particularly along the fractious frontier separating the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen from the mainly Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh.
On Monday night, the driver of a car opened fire at a street-side coffee vendor after he prevented him from parking his vehicle at the Tal Square in the city.
The driver then opened fire at people who stepped in to help the vendor before fleeing the scene. All shops in the area closed following the incident. Also Monday, the Army dismantled 100 grams of explosives it discovered in a street in Jabal Mohsen.
Meanwhile, at the sites of the Tripoli bombings, an Army committee in cooperation with the Higher Relief Committee began surveying damages resulting from the blasts, a statement released by the Army said.
The Army called on people whose property was damaged to present their personal papers and property documents to two offices of the committee established close to the two affected mosques. The offices open at 8 a.m. daily.
The Future parliamentary bloc held a special meeting in Tripoli and reiterated its call for Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria, saying the party’s intervention alongside regime forces has paved the way for strife in Lebanon.
“Lebanon’s doors were opened to strife and evil on every corner the day Hezbollah went on a mission outside Lebanon, going beyond its country’s interest and the national agreements to engage in an armed struggle in Syria alongside the murderous regime,” the bloc said in a statement read by MP Samir Jisr.
Tripoli officials and relatives of the victims continued to receive condolences at the Rashid Karami International Fairground in the city.
Extending condolences was a Future bloc delegation headed by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Speaking to reporters, Siniora said that residents of Tripoli have succeeded in foiling the plans of those behind the explosions through refraining from reckless reactions.
Siniora added that residents of Tripoli oppose vigilantism. “When dealing with this challenge, Tripoli has from the very beginning refused to resort to self-imposed security ... it will continue to adhere the state,” Siniora said.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati extended his condolences to Sheikh Salem Rafei, who leads prayers at Al-Taqwa Mosque, hailing the rational reaction of Tripoli’s people to the attack, which he said came in line with instructions issued by the city’s clerics.
For his part, Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani toured the bomb sites in Tripoli and Ruwaiss and accused world superpowers of seeking to drag Lebanon into a regional conflict. “Superpowers insist on dragging Lebanon into the Arab fight because Lebanon and Jordan are the only countries which did not enter this [conflict],” he said from Tripoli.
Qabbani said the car bombings that targeted the Beirut southern suburbs and Tripoli recently were the work of one party.
Later during the day, Qabbani visited the blast site in Ruwaiss, where he was met by officials and lawmakers from Hezbollah.
“I came to you ... to tell you that our pain is one,” the mufti said.
Separately, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Rai attended a memorial ceremony organized by the Higher Shiite Council in honor of the victims of the Tripoli and Ruwaiss. – With additional reporting by Antoine Amrieh