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Charbel: Security situation difficult
File - Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel is seen in Beirut, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
File - Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel is seen in Beirut, Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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BEIRUT: The next five or six months will be difficult for Lebanon at the security level as the country may witness more bombings or assassination attempts, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Sunday.

“We are in for a difficult time over the next five or six months, during which security incidents might happen,” Charbel told The Daily Star.

“But all security agencies have been placed on full alert to foil attempts to destabilize the country,” he said.

Lebanon has been rattled by a string of car bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the northern city of Tripoli recently that have killed nearly 80 people and wounded over 500, in incidents directly linked to the 32-month war in neighboring Syria.

Last week, senior Hezbollah commander Hassan Hawlo al-Lakkis was murdered by unidentified gunmen outside his home south of Beirut, in an assassination the party blamed on Israel.

Lakkis’ assassination, which dealt a blow to Hezbollah in its stronghold, came two weeks after twin suicide bombings targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing 30 people and wounding over 150.

The attack, which was claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanon-based Al-Qaeda affiliate, raised fears that the Syrian conflict was spilling over into Lebanon, where political parties are sharply split in their support for the warring factions across the border.

Charbel’s remarks came shortly after the Lebanese Army arrested four Syrians possessing arms on the outskirts of the northeast border town of Arsal. The four were traveling in a vehicle from Syria.

The Army said in a statement that the car, which lacked a license plate, was stopped at a military checkpoint near Wadi Hmayyed in Arsal, adding that the four men in the car also lacked identification cards.

The Army said it confiscated weapons and a number of hand grenades from the vehicle and that the detainees were transferred to the appropriate judicial authorities.

Speaking to The Daily Star, a security source identified three of the men as Adnan al-Sheikh Abdel-Qader, Abdel-Aziz Barouk and Khaldoun Hussein.

The source added the car contained a motorcycle, a number of Kalashnikovs and 10 telecommunication devices.

Elsewhere, a police station checkpoint at Dar al-Baydar in east Lebanon arrested a Palestinian, identified only as Yasser K., wanted on charges of terrorism and belonging to a terrorist gang, the National News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army seized four Lebanon-bound explosives-laden vehicles in the town of Nabk in Qalamoun, a mountainous region where regime forces have been trying to root out rebel groups, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar Television reported.

The channel aired what it said was footage of an ambulance truck, two vans and a car that were rigged with explosives and rockets.

The report said the vehicles were prepared in Syria and were ready to be transferred to Lebanon via Arsal where residents are known to be staunch supporters of the Syrian opposition.

Arsal has also recently witnessed a large influx of Syrian refugees as a result of ongoing battles in Qalamoun between Hezbollah-backed regime forces and Syrian rebel groups.

A military official could not confirm Al-Manar’s report, saying the four vehicles were seized on Syrian territory.

“The Lebanese Army is on full alert at all crossings [with Syria] to prevent car bombs or gunmen from entering into Lebanon,” the official said.

Al-Manar also said the vehicle that was detonated outside the Iranian Embassy last month was rigged in the Syrian town of Yabroud.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 09, 2013, on page 3.
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