SIDON/BAALBEK/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr Monday charged another 38 individuals over gunbattles in Tripoli.
A total of 51 have been charged for their involvement in the fighting, part of a larger security plan to bring peace to the restive northern city.
Of the 38 suspects, 18 were from the mainly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and 20 were from the nearby majority Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh, according to a judicial source.
The two areas have been feuding on and off since May 2008, but the rivalry between them has been aggravated by the 3-year-old crisis in neighboring Syria. Residents of Jabal Mohsen are supportive of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while rivals in Bab al-Tabbaneh sympathize with the Syrian opposition.
Only two of the suspects – one from Jabal Mohsen and the other from Bab al-Tabbaneh – are in custody. The rest remain at large, the source told The Daily Star.
Among the Bab al-Tabbaneh suspects are two militia commanders known as Bilal Baqqar and Raef Dandashi, the source added.
Saqr charged all 38 men with undermining the authority of the state, belonging to an armed organization and conspiracy to murder. The suspects could face the death penalty if found guilty.
Saqr referred the case and the two detained men to Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan, who is expected to interrogate the suspects Thursday.
The Lebanese Army also said it arrested a wanted suspect identified as Suleiman Mahmoud al-Ali from Jabal Mohsen.
Separately, the Army Monday blocked roads leading to the Palestinian refugee camp of Bass in the southern city of Tyre, demanding the handover of a suspect involved in a shooting.
The military tightened its cordon around the camp, blocking its entrance and several streets leading to the area, a security source said.
The measures are aimed at pressuring the camp’s residents to hand over the suspect involved in a recent gunfight that saw a Lebanese man from the Beit Hajjo family and his cousin from the Palestinian Dreiz family engage in a personal dispute Sunday night over financial issues. No casualties were reported.
In the Bekaa Valley, three rockets fired from Syria landed in barren terrain outside the village of Labweh in east Lebanon Monday, security sources said.
The Army said in a statement that no one had been hurt in the rocket attack “from Syria.”
It said soldiers were trying to find out exactly where the rockets fell to determine their type and origin.
The 8:20 a.m. attack was claimed by the militant group Free Sunni Brigades, which said the rockets were in response to Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria.
“As long as the blood of Sunnis is being shed in Syria, Hezbollah’s strongholds in Lebanon will not be spared our direct response,” the group tweeted.
Labweh, a Shiite town associated with Hezbollah, has been targeted in the past by militant Islamist groups fighting in Syria seeking to punish the Lebanese party for militarily supporting Assad.
Also in the Bekaa Valley, police Monday arrested the head of a car theft ring after a shootout wounded the suspect, a security source said.
Members of the Internal Security Forces pursued Hussein Ismail, who was driving through the village of Taybeh, and the two exchanged fire. The suspect and another man in the vehicle were both wounded, as were two policemen.
Ismail has several arrest warrants out against him and is one of the “most dangerous heads of car theft rings in Lebanon,” the source said.
Meanwhile, in Dohat Aramoun in Aley, police arrested a Lebanese man, identified only by his initials F.B., for attacking another man and a woman with a wooden club.
During interrogations, the suspect confessed that he had attacked around five people in separate incidents at the same place with the weapon because he was drunk, stressing that he hadn’t tried to rob or kill his victims.