TRIPOLI/BEIRUT: A meeting chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati Friday tasked Lebanon’s Central Security Council with drafting a plan to preserve security in Tripoli.
But a local militia commander in Lebanon’s second city said that gunmen would only hand over their weapons if they secured jobs and had their arrest warrants canceled.
Mikati tasked caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel with asking the Central Security Council to lay down the plan in coordination with the Army to maintain stability in Tripoli, a statement by Mikati’s office said.
Last month, twin car bombing attacks killed 47 people in Tripoli and wounded hundreds.
Tripoli has been shaken by periodic fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhoods respectively, leaving scores of people dead and wounded. This raised fears about serious repercussions of the Syria crisis on Lebanon. The city also witnesses almost daily armed clashes over personal disputes.
Although Tripoli is the hometown of many prominent politicians and businessmen like Mikati, its residents suffer from extreme levels of poverty and deprivation.
Mikati and Charbel were joined during the meeting at the Grand Serail by caretaker ministers Faisal Karami (youth and sports), Fayez Ghosn (defense) and Ahmad Karami (minister of state), along with Tripoli lawmakers and senior security officials in the city. Both Karamis hail from Tripoli.
Sources at the Grand Serail told The Daily Star the security plan intended for Tripoli is similar to that implemented in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a stronghold of Hezbollah.
Over 1,000 personnel from the Army, Internal Security Forces and General Security deployed this week in the southern suburbs as part of the security plan for the area. The force replaced Hezbollah’s own security checkpoints and patrols which were put in place following two bomb attacks which targeted the stronghold of the resistance group in July and August. The attacks killed around 30 people and wounded hundreds.
Speaking during the meeting, Mikati said that the plan aimed at ending “the chaotic security conditions in Tripoli” and called on residents in the northern city to cooperate with the security agencies.
“What is required today is to end the chaotic security conditions in Tripoli, everyone in Tripoli opposes [illegitimate] arms and supports the security plan to control the situation in the city and all of us have already provided the needed political cover to control the situation,” Mikati said.
“All Lebanese districts welcome the state and its agencies and Tripoli, before any other area, wants to live under the protection of the state, and its residents are committed to this option,” he added.
The caretaker premier said that the climate in Tripoli had become conducive at all levels for making the plan a success. “All needed requirements will be secured for the Army and the security forces to fulfill their duty in preserving the security and safety of people,” he said.
“We call on the people of Tripoli to cooperate with this plan once its implementation begins and to help security bodies in fulfilling their duties.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Karami said that the security plan which would be presented to Mikati would have three goals: addressing the chaotic security conditions in the city, looking for cars containing explosives and tackling the chronic problems in Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh.
“We made several proposals, some that have to do with development and social services, and others that address the security situation,” Karami said.
Ziad Allouki, a local militia commander from Bab al-Tabbaneh, welcomed the security plan. However, he said that the state should impose its authority first on the “gangs of Bashar Assad” in Jabal Mohsen.
He also said that the implementation of a proposal he made to Charbel was key to stability in Tripoli.
“We have young men in Tripoli who are wanted and have outstanding arrest warrants. These 600 men will hand over their weapons in return for getting jobs and having their arrest warrants canceled,” Allouki said.
“If the state does not help us in this issue through being positive, we’ll no longer be able to control people on the street,” Allouki said.
Allouki added that Tripoli residents were interested in seeing development projects in their city and getting employed. “They [authorities] just want to preserve security. We want development and peace in this country. I am a fighter, but I also have my business, we do not have the hobby of carrying arms,” Allouki said.
Gaby Sroor, a resident of Tripoli, voiced his doubts that the state would be able to impose its authority throughout the country.
“There’s always going to be the question: Will the state extend its authority across all Lebanese territories, or will Lebanon continue to be hostage to sectarian and regional bickering?” he asked.