HERMEL, Lebanon: Tensions ran high Wednesday in the east Lebanon town of Majdal Anjar after one soldier was killed and another wounded during a military operation to apprehend a “dangerous suspect.”
The Army identified the killed soldier as 20-year-old Charbel Youssef Hatem from Zahle, east Lebanon, who joined the military in 2011.
In a statement, the Army said a patrol unit came under fire in Majdal Anjar, responded to the sources of fire and was able to apprehend what it described as a “dangerous wanted suspect.”
A security source said an Army unit arrested Wissam Khanjar after raiding his house, but that soldiers came under heavy fire as they were leaving the area on the Al-Azhar road.
The unit responded to the sources of fire in order to safely medicate and secure the transfer of the two wounded soldiers to a hospital. Soldiers Paul Ashqouti and Hatem were taken to a Bekaa hospital but the latter died of severe wounds.
The source said that the intensity of the attack on the Army unit indicated there were at least four assailants as well as the presence of a dangerous armed gang in Majdal Anjar.
The source also noted that the ambush could be related to last month’s deadly clashes in the southern neighborhood of Abra between the Army and Salafist gunmen given that Khanjar is a well known arms dealer with ties to former armed groups in Majdal Anjar, who were involved in the Masnaa explosion which targeted a Hezbollah convoy and the 2011 abduction of seven Estonians in the Bekaa.
Khanjar’s arrest comes after the apprehension of three suspects involved in the Masnaa bombing that targeted two SUVs on the highway linking the town of Majdal Anjar to the Masnaa border crossing earlier this month.
The roadside bomb killed a member of Hezbollah and wounded three others.
Khanjar is also a member of Khaled Malkeh’s armed group accused of plotting to kidnap military officers. Malkeh is under arrest.
The ambush took place in the same location where two Army officers were killed two years ago at the hands of Darwish Khanjar, the suspect’s cousin, who also attempted to kill an intelligence officer.
The incident left the residents of Majdal Anjar in a panic and raised questions as to whether the area would be “under siege,” once again, which was the case following the arrest of the group behind the abduction of the Estonians and the creation of an Islamist armed group operating there.
Tensions in Majdal Anjar are expected to escalate, as they have in several Bekaa towns, particularly border villages due to the rise of sectarian rhetoric, which has intensified since the crisis in Syria began.