TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Security forces Tuesday detained 43 suspects accused of involvement in Tripoli clashes part of the government-approved security plan to restore stability to the restive northern city, which has been plagued by fighting linked to the crisis in Syria.
Around 1,800 Lebanese Army and security forces personnel deployed in Tripoli in the early hours of the morning and conducted an estimated 40 raids in several neighborhood of the city, Lebanon's second largest.
The raids included the residence of pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party Secretary-General Rifaat Eid in Jabal Mohsen, where soldiers confiscated two wireless devices and two surveillance cameras among other items, security sources said.
The Army also raided the house of militant Sheikh Omar Bakri, a Tripoli-based Islamist, in the Abu Samra neighborhood in an attempt to detain the preacher as well as the residence of Shadi Mawlawi but the two were not found, according to the sources.
The military detained 18 individuals in Al-Qibbeh, two in Jabal Mohsen and two others in Bab al-Ramel, the sources said.
Soldiers also stormed a pharmacy in al-Qibbeh as well as three arms depots in Jabal Mohsen.
The Army raided the neighborhood of Riva and detained militia leader Jihad Dandashi along with 10 other people including three Syrians. Nine other suspects were also detained in the same area.
Tripoli gunmen and fighters went into hiding in anticipation of the government’s security plan after the military prosecutor issued 200 warrants, including some for militia leaders in the city.
Judge Saqr Saqr issued warrants on charges related to armed clashes, car bombs, killings and attempted murder of civilians and Army soldiers, as well as kidnapping and forgery.
The judicial move indicated the government’s resolve to ensure the successful implementation of the security plan and grants security agencies the right to detain suspects and refer them to the judiciary.
Military and ISF set up 30 checkpoints throughout the city as two Army helicopters flew overhead for surveillance and protection purposes.
The Army began removing the barricades and sandbags erected during armed clashes as several shops and markets opened for business in an attempt to restore normalcy back to the city.
Internet services in Tripoli have been cut off to assist in the implementation of the plan, which was drafted by the Higher Defense Council and approved by the government last week.
President Michel Sleiman followed up on the ongoing security measures with Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi separately at Baabda Palace.
According to his office, the president voiced relief over the measures and “sacrifices to restore stability and preserve the security of the nation and citizens.” He called for dealing firmly with violators of the peace and referring them to the judiciary.
An Army statement spoke briefly about the plan, saying the measures included checkpoints, patrols and raids for wanted people.
“A number of [suspects] have been arrested and handed over to the relevant authorities to take the required measures,” the statement added.
Tripoli has witnessed twenty rounds of Syria-linked clashes between the majority-Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood and the predominantly-Alawite Jabal Mohsen.
At least 30 people were killed in the latest round of fighting between opponents and supporters of President Bashar Assad. The clashes subsided last week after the government approved the defense council's security plan to restore stability to Tripoli and the Akkar region.
MP Walid Jumblatt mocked Tripoli’s security plan, saying the government’s announcement last week gave militia leaders enough time to flee the city and evade detention.
“Given that the capabilities were magically made available by security and political figures, the security plan for Tripoli went into effect after the city was exhausted with 20 rounds of fighting led by militia leaders in Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen,” Jumblatt said in a statement.
“The funniest thing about the security plan which we can only support ... is that it warned in advance all militia leaders of its arrival and so now Rifaat Eid can continue its graduate studies at University of California at Berkeley,” he added