BEIRUT: Brig. Shamel Roukoz, the head of the Army Commando Unit, will not be relieved of his post, a Free Patriotic Movement official told The Daily Star Wednesday.
"Based on accurate information I have, no decision has been made until now regarding Shamel Roukoz,” said Naji Hayek, a member of the founding committee of the FPM.
A local media outlet said this week that as part of appointments among senior Army officers that Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji intends to make, Brig. George Nader, the head of the Airborne Regiment, would be removed from his post and appointed as a military attaché in Paris.
The report cited Nader’s age and the fact that he was retiring in one year as reasons behind the move.
The media outlet said that Roukoz would be relieved of his post as well for the same reasons.
“According to my information, the reports on George Nader are true ... but there is nothing imminent, the appointments will take place within three or four months,” Hayek said.Roukoz is the son-in-law of FPM leader MP Michel Aoun. He emerged as a strong candidate to succeed Kahwaji, who was supposed to retire this month.
But caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn signed a decree in July, extending Kahwaji’s term by two years.While he did not publicly call for appointing his son-in-law as Army commander, Aoun said Roukoz was competent enough to assume the post.Roukoz played an important role in the Army’s battle with the Islamist group Fatah al-Islam in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in summer 2007, after which he was appointed as head of the Army Commando Unit.
The war lasted for over three months, during which the Army crushed the group.For his part, Nader is also close to Aoun and was loyal to him when Aoun was an Army commander between 1984 and 1989.Hayek said that appointments were mere administrative measures that the FPM did not interfere in.“Roukoz is an officer under the Army Command and it decides where to appoint him.
Anyway, if the Army command decides to move Roukoz from his post, he will certainly not be appointed a guard ... but maybe the director of the Army’s operations room,” Hayek said.“We never take appointments within the Army as personal,” Hayek explained. “ George Nader has been serving as head of the Airborne Regiment for seven years, so it’s not a problem if he is transferred from his post,” he added. Hayek stressed that Nader and Roukoz had no political affiliations.
Hayek said that in 2006, Roukoz was dispatched to the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut to protect it after March 8 parties held a sit-in in the area demanding the resignation of then-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Siniora currently heads the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a rival of Aoun.An Army spokesperson could not be reached by The Daily Star to comment on the issue.