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Lebanon boosts security ahead of holiday
Lebanese Army soldiers stand guard outside a church in Dbayeh on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. (The Daily Star/HO)
Lebanese Army soldiers stand guard outside a church in Dbayeh on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. (The Daily Star/HO)
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BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces said over the weekend they boosted security measures in the country ahead of the Holiday season particularly around places of worship and shopping centers.

In a statement, the General Directorate said Saturday military units expanded their deployment in the north, Mount Lebanon, Beirut, the Bekaa and the south.

It added that it has taken a series of strict security measures in order to reassure citizens and protect them and their properties.

"The measures were focused on places of worship, main highways, shopping centers, state institutions and tourist areas," the statement said.

The Army also asked citizens to respond well to such security measures, cooperate with the military and take initiative to contact it in case of suspicion.

Soldiers and tanks were deployed outside malls in Dbayeh, Dora and Ashrafieh as well as in various churches in Beirut and its suburbs.

Lebanon has been rocked by a series of bombs in the past couple of months mostly targeting Hezbollah-strongholds in the Bekaa and Beirut’s southern suburbs.

Some of the attacks, which were claimed by takfiri groups, were in retaliation to Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria.

The bombings include the Nov. 19 twin suicide attack against the Iranian Embassy and the most recent suicide attacks against the Lebanese Army in Sidon on Dec. 15.

Meanwhile, acting Head of the ISF Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous issued an order to all working units at the police force to remain on high alert starting Dec. 23 at 8 a.m.

He ordered police units to deploy in military and civilian clothing and erect checkpoints on main roads outside places of worship, night clubs, restaurants, and shopping centers.

He also asked the Information Branch and judicial police to increase their probing efforts and the operations room to be on alert to resolve emergencies.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel has warned that some clandestine groups would attempt to destabilize the country ahead of the trials of suspects allegedly involved in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon has scheduled Jan. 16, 2014 as the date for the start of trials of four Hezbollah members indicted in Hariri’s killing.

Judges at the STL also ordered Friday that a fifth Hezbollah suspect accused of taking part in the Hariri assassination be tried in absentia, since Hasan Merhi “has absconded or otherwise cannot be found.”

The minister additionally warned of the next six months which include critical issues including the upcoming presidential elections that could have repercussions on security and stability.

Meanwhile, the Internal Security Forces said Saturday it increased the number of its personnel by 250 for traffic control officers, Beirut police, embassy security, and state institutions.

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