BEIRUT: Lebanese officials condemned Monday the two suicide attacks against the Lebanese Army in the coastal city of Sidon where one officer was killed.
President Michel Sleiman said “this criminal, terrorist act” came at a time the Lebanese were rallying behind the Army, seeking protection and stability.
Sleiman stressed that authorities will take all measures to fight terrorism.
One Lebanese Army officer was killed Sunday night in what the Army said was suicide attacks in separate parts of Sidon. Three gunmen were also killed.
Security sources said the attackers were likely supporters of Salafi-labelled Sheikh Ahmad Assir whose gunmen clashed with the Army in Sidon earlier this year.
Caretaker PM Najib Mikati said the incidents were terrorist attacks par excellence to target the military which protects Lebanon and preserves sovereignty and independence.
"We call on everyone to support the Army and the rest of Lebanon's security agencies and to prevent [anyone] from messing with our security," he said in a statement.
He also contacted Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi and followed up on the two incidents.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam called for swift action to arrest the culprits and ensure maximum punishment for them.
Vice president of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan described the attacks as a “cowardly terrorist act.”
"What happened was a cowardly terrorist act designed to hit Lebanon's strength represented by its Army, which sacrifices for the defense of the homeland and its people,” Qabalan said.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that “solidarity with the Lebanese army ... is the duty of every citizen who believes in the state and the role of the military institution in this sensitive stage of the history of Lebanon and the region,” he added.
He also demanded the arrest and prosecution of all armed groups which he said were seeking to spread chaos and target army checkpoints with the aim of hampering internal stability and igniting division.
“ Sidon will not accept under any circumstances to be dragged again into a confrontation with the Lebanese army, which is entrusted with the safety, security and dignity of its people,” he added.
Those who targeted the Army, Hariri said, “are just a group of misled and irresponsible people, using armed chaos and sectarian tension to jeopardize the safety of the city ... offering to the suicidal projects and to those who carry illegal weapons free services enabling them to access Sidon and manipulate it.”
Sidon MP Bahia Hariri condemned the ‘terrorist’ attacks on the Army and called for an emergency meeting of the city’s officials later Monday.
“Once again terrorism hits Lebanon's security and the safety of its people,” Hariri said in a statement.
“These terrorist attacks against the Lebanese Army in Awali and Majdalyoun constitute a blatant attack on all the Lebanese,” she added.
Hariri, who described the military as the “safety valve for citizens,” stressed that the military and Sidon stands alongside the Army in its fight against terrorism.
Former PM Fouad Siniora, also a Sidon MP, condemned the attacks and contacted Kahwagi to offer his condolences over the death of the Army officer.
Siniora, who strongly condemned the attacks, said such incidents were rejected by the city's residents.
"The Lebanese Army is the institution we should fully back given that it is the only official state security agency tasked with preserving security, protecting citizens and strengthening unity against Israeli aggression and illegitimate militia forces,” he said.