FNAYDEQ, Lebanon: A suspect who shot at an Army unit in the northern region of Qammoua this week committed suicide rather than face the shame brought by family members calling for his arrest, a relative told The Daily Star. The ambush occurred late Tuesday and involved two suspects later identified as Ali Hussein Taleb and Baraa al-Kik. The two allegedly attacked a military unit in the region, shooting and killing two soldiers, Lt. Joe Farfour, 22, and Sgt. Fawzi Abed Ali, 32, and wounding another.
The mayor of the town of Fnaydeq, Khaldoun Taleb, had condemned the attack and admitted that his nephew Ali was behind the ambush. He was found dead a few hours afterward, in an apparent suicide.
Initially, media reports linked the incident to a protest in Tripoli hours before, which led Salafist preacher Sheikh Dai al-Islam al-Shahhal to warn of major fallout in response to the security crackdown in the city.
But those who knew Taleb intimately say he was not a Salafist, and that media reports depicting him as such were creating a “crisis in the town,” said Mohammad Taleb, the mayor’s son.
The telling events that led to his suicide suggest that Taleb, the owner of a coffee shop and a car repair shop, was far from religious. Rather, relatives said he was a troubled man with a history of alcohol abuse.
After he shot at the soldiers, according to Mohammad, Ali drove to the outskirts of Qammoua. The townspeople had already identified him as one of the attackers, spotting his car at the scene.
“That’s when my dad called him and told him he needed to turn himself in,” Mohammad said.
Mayor Khaldoun and Ali’s maternal uncle followed the fugitive to his hideout. Ali appeared inebriated and broke down when they confronted him. “I made a big mistake,” he told his uncles, “I was not conscious of my actions.”
“He threatened to kill himself if they approached him. My father [Khaldoun] did and he shot himself right in front of him,” Mohammad said. “Shortly after my father had a heart attack.”
Tensions have been high in the town in the aftermath of Taleb’s suicide, and the locals are nervous.
“Ali is not involved in these kinds of things [attacks against the Army],” said Mohammad, his voice rising to a shrill. “He had an arrest warrant against him two years ago because of a brawl with another family which involved shooting. He had an alcohol problem.”
Fnaydeq’s unemployment rate is a staggering 67 percent, with most young men turning to the Army for employment. Once, Ali too was among its ranks. The Daily Star had interviewed the mayor in the past about recruitment rates.
“There is no way, not now or in the future that enmity will exist between us and the Army ... it provides us with jobs,” he had said.
“Most of the men from this area are soldiers,” Mohammad added. “Here, there is no hate toward the Army.”