BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri warned Wednesday that terrorist groups in Lebanon were seeking to turn the country into an “arena for jihad,” and President Michel Sleiman vowed to counter the growing number of security incidents.
Referring to recent attacks against the Lebanese Army, Berri was quoted as telling MPs during a weekly meeting at his residence in Ain al-Tineh that the terror groups behind the attacks “seek to turn Lebanon into an arena for jihad.”
The Army has come under attack in recent days. A soldier was killed and three others were wounded Sunday in two separate attacks by gunmen on Army checkpoints in south Lebanon.
Rockets fired from Syria into the northeastern city of Hermel Tuesday wounded two soldiers.
Berri asked why the Lebanese “do not unite to confront that which challenges their stability and unity.”
He also warned of the consequences if the security situation continued to deteriorate.
Berri separately met U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale. No comments were made after the talks.
Meanwhile, Sleiman met caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi to discuss the recent security developments in the country, the president’s office said.
Sleiman followed up on the deadly shooting Sunday along the Lebanon-Israel border, the two “terror attacks” against the Army in south Lebanon, Tuesday’s car bombing in the northeast and the rocket attacks that hit a military barracks in the city of Hermel.
Sleiman, according to the statement, reiterated the “need to confront these attacks strongly and decisively and to pursue and arrest those responsible for them, including their masterminds.”
According to a Baabda Palace statement Tuesday, the president reiterated his call for the Lebanese to raise their level of vigilance in the face of “repeated attempts to transfer violence and terrorism to Lebanon, the most recent being in Baalbek and Hermel, and to continue combating terrorism and confront it with all force.”
Sleiman also called on the Lebanese to support security forces “with the Army at its head in order to enable it to deflect and intercept those behind these acts and thwart their plans.”
Sleiman has repeatedly called on all Lebanese factions to respect the Baabda Declaration by keeping Lebanon neutral in regard to the Syrian crisis.
But a Hezbollah MP Wednesday blamed Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from the Syrian crisis for the infiltration of jihadists into the country to implement what he said were their plots in the region.
“The disassociation policy adopted by the Lebanese government paved the way for the radical takfiri forces that have infiltrated Lebanon to serve the plot of dividing the region, which began in Iraq then Syria and now arrived to Lebanon,” Baalbek-Hermel MP Walid Sukkarieh from Hezbollah’s Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc told the Sawt al-Shaeb radio station.
Sukkarieh also lamented the lack of political cover for the Lebanese Army to allow it to expel these takfiri groups from the country.
“The others [political rivals] accept that these [takfiri] groups attack the resistance but denies that they attack the military; they also appeal for their release once they are detained, such as what happened in Abra,” he said, referring to the deadly clashes in June between Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir’s fighters and the Army in a suburb of Sidon.
Hezbollah has accused the Future Movement of defending Assir’s loyalists in Abra.
Takfiri is a term that refers to Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostacy. Hezbollah and its allies use the term to refer to fundamentalists who oppose Bashar Assad’s regime and who took up arms against his military.
The party accuses takfiris of orchestrating a string of bombings in Lebanon in recent weeks.