TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Tripoli residents expressed mixed feelings Friday about the new state-sponsored security plan, with the memory of last month’s twin bomb attacks that targeted the Al-Salam and Al-Taqwa mosques, killing 47, still fresh in the minds of many. As noon prayers wound to a close, the Al-Salam Mosque was abuzz, not with sermons, but with ongoing construction and rehabilitation. Scaffoldings stood where faithful men once congregated, and rows of construction material were piled along the road around the wrecked mosque.
At the cafe across the street, customers sat casually smoking shisha and discussing the new security plan proposed for the city.
“The psychological effects of the bombings still affect the citizens of the city,” Ahmad Alami remarked.
“Since the two bombings, people now prefer to stay at home or at work than attend prayers.”
Alami was skeptical, but hopeful, that the security plan would succeed despite the fractious political environment and presence of armed gangs.
“We don’t know what the results of the security plan will be, it’s only the first day, but we are waiting and hoping that it will succeed and rid us of this fear that we feel after each and every security incident.”
At Al-Taqwa Mosque near the Abu Ali roundabout, daily life seemed to have resumed for most.
Renovations at the mosque were still ongoing as worshippers attended Friday prayers. Only street vendors and beggars, usually an essential fixture around the mosque, were absent.
Internal Security Forces, General Security and the Army deployed at entrances to the city Thursday as the first phase of an ambitious plan to bring calm to the restive northern city went into effect. Checkpoints were established at the entrances of neighborhoods such as Abu Samra, Qibbeh and Bab al-Tabbaneh. Security forces also established checkpoints in the Haykalieh area linking Tripoli to Koura and in the Majdlaya area linking Tripoli to Zghorta.
A joint operations room for security forces was also established on Maarad Street, near the Al-Salam Mosque, to coordinate between various agencies.
In remarks published Friday, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the implementation of the security plan in Tripoli aimed at protecting the city from other potential bomb attacks.
But Charbel added that the measures also had another purpose that would be revealed at a later date.
“The plan has two missions: The first is to protect Tripoli from the outside, that is to prevent [potentially] booby-trapped cars from entering, as well as dismantling [terrorist] networks,” Charbel told Al-Liwaa newspaper.
“The second mission will be announced after caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati returns to Lebanon,” Charbel said.
Some residents, however, seemed skeptical about the effectiveness of the new security plan, while others hoped the presence of security forces would restore stability to Tripoli.
“The security plan only causes traffic and does not solve the complicated security situation in the country,” Mohammad Tamer, a taxi driver from the city, told The Daily Star.
He said that those responsible for recurrent clashes in Tripoli, referring to local militia commanders, were found inside Tripoli’s souks and alleys.
“This is where the security forces should be deployed, not at the entrances of the city to inspect papers,” he said.
Another resident, a barber named Ahmad al-Beli, hailed the security plan and hoped it would put an end to the city’s chronic outbreaks of violence.
“The plan is a good one and imposing security is a demand made by all residents of Tripoli,” he said.
For his part, Ghassan Hamze, a bank employee, said the plan was not “serious enough” and said it was merely a show for the media.
“It is propaganda and nothing more,” he said.
Ali Selhdar, a fisherman from Mina, hoped the plan would be implemented in the long term and said it should be accompanied by developmental policies.
“Security is very important of course and we welcome the authorities, but we also need plans to develop the city and ensure stability,” he said.