BEIRUT: Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel criticized Monday Hezbollah’s private security measures in the southern suburbs of Beirut, saying that searching people at party checkpoints was not permissible.
“Erecting checkpoints, stopping and searching people as they [Hezbollah] are doing is forbidden,” Charbel told The Daily Star.
“The situation in the Beirut southern suburbs is sensitive. It was targeted three times, once by rockets and twice by car bombs,” Charbel added. “They [Hezbollah] can assist the Internal Security Forces in maintaining security there but not by erecting checkpoints and searching people.”
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem said Sunday that shortcomings by the state security institutions compelled the resistance group to adopt measures to protect its densely populated stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
The Hezbollah official said the party had to carry out its own security measures after it had been told by security heads that they were unable to protect the area.
Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, the deputy head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, accused the March 14 coalition of obstructing efforts to provide the Army with weapons so that it could protect the people, dismissing accusations made by the group against Hezbollah of having imposed self-security.
“These accusations are false because they are responsible for weakening the Army by preventing it from receiving arms, while we wish that that the Army becomes capable of protecting all civilians, so that we can withdraw from the streets,” Qaouk said during a memorial ceremony in the southern village of Mansouri.
“We do not have a project of private security but we cannot be lenient when it comes to protecting our people. Should we leave the streets of the suburbs exposed to takfiri groups?” Qaouk said.
Two car bomb attacks targeted the southern suburbs in July and August, killing at least 30 people and wounding hundreds more. In May, two rockets slammed into the Shiyah southern suburb of Beirut, wounding four people.
As of August, Hezbollah has boosted its security measures. The party erected checkpoints at the entrances of the southern suburbs, searching cars and examining the identities of passengers. Hezbollah accuses takfiri groups of standing behind the attacks.
Charbel said the aim of his plan to boost the capabilities of municipal police was to help the Army and the Internal Security Forces better maintain security across Lebanon and avoid the implementation of private security measures by independent groups.
According to the plan, municipal police will receive arms training from the Internal Security Forces.
“You can say that the municipal police will be [under the power of] an Internal Security Forces member,” Charbel said.
Charbel said that 350 Beirut municipal police would start training at the ISF Institute within one week.
The caretaker minister explained that he would study the ways to deal with Hezbollah’s private security measures.
President Michel Sleiman discussed with Charbel at Baabda Palace measures taken by the Interior Ministry and municipalities to maintain security across Lebanon.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea described Hezbollah’s private security measures as “the most serious” issue facing Lebanon amid the regional turmoil and the country’s deteriorating socio-economic conditions.
“The danger lies in Hezbollah’s checkpoints and [security] measures in the southern suburbs and other areas under its influence,” Geagea said in remarks published by a local newspaper Monday.
Bsharri MP Elie Keyrouz, from the LF parliamentary bloc, said Hezbollah’s arms were the actual problem.
“These arms violate the Constitution, the National Pact and are illegitimate,” Keyrouz said after attending a Mass in the village of Deir al-Ahmar. He said that Hezbollah’s attempts to overpower state institutions and facilities had reached unprecedented levels.
For his part, Future Movement MP Samir Jisr, the head of Parliament’s Defense, Interior and Municipalities Committee, reiterated his opposition to Hezbollah’s private security measures.
“ Hezbollah always talks positively about the Army and voices its confidence in it. Then why doesn’t it allow the Army to impose security across all Lebanese territories rather than having its self-imposed security?” Jisr told the Central News Agency.
For his part, Baabda MP Naji Gharios, from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, said that while he did not oppose Hezbollah’s security measures, members manning the party’s checkpoints were “not good.”
“These are young men who have nothing to do with security and politics and we do not know what they are doing,” Gharious told CNA. He said that people who were experts in security and had good morals should replace them.