BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad Sunday said confronting jihadist groups needed to be set as a priority for the next government and held responsible takfiri groups, and those justifying their acts, for the deadly weekend suicide bombing in the northeast of Lebanon.
“The national priority at this stage is to confront these takfiri groups and this should head the next government’s program,” he said, adding that this ruled out the possibility of forming a “neutral or imposed [Cabinet] if the Lebanese want it to take on this big mission.”
A suicide bombing at a gas station in the northeastern city of Hermel Saturday killed four people, including the bomber, and wounded 23 others, security sources told The Daily Star. The Lebanon branch of the Nusra Front, a radical Syrian rebel group, claimed responsibility for it.
“The takfiri terrorism has struck once more in Hermel, [this time] at a gas station the proceeds of which go to an orphanage,” Fayyad said.
Fayyad blamed jihadist groups for the attack and other bombings in the country. He also said sides rationalizing the attacks or hampering counter-terrorism efforts by authorities also shared in the blame.
“A whole sect does not bear responsibility for this criminal act but the terrorist groups that practice murder,” the Hezbollah lawmaker said.
“Sharing in responsibility are all those who justify, voice understanding, find excuses or provide political cover or obstruct the Army and security forces from apprehending [the culprits] or back their role in Syria ... because these are not revolutionaries or an opposition but terrorists,” he added.
“Those who launch direct or indirect stances accusing the Lebanese Army and its Intelligence [branch], slow it down or pressure it at the moral, personal or sectarian levels when it is confronting them [terrorists] are partners in every terrorist act of killing of our people and Lebanese society,” he said.
He also warned that Muslim sects in Lebanon faced the same threat from jihadist groups.
“The danger that takfiri groups pose to the Sunni sect and Lebanese is no less than the danger ... against the Shiites despite the different methods used,” he said.
Lebanon has seen a spate of car bombings linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria. Jihadist groups such as the Nusra Front in Lebanon have claimed responsibility for the attacks, vowing similar actions until Hezbollah ends its military campaign in Syria.
Meanwhile, representative in the Future Movement including former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and MP Bahia Hariri condemned the bombing in Hermel, describing it as a repercussion of the Syrian war.
“The Lebanese people seem to have a rendezvous every day with a crime that targets them but not by Israel, our [pan-Arab] and national enemy, but due to the [effects of] the conflict in Syria on Lebanon,” Siniora said, commenting on the attack in Hermel.
“We strongly condemn these terrorist crimes but denouncing alone does not suffice. The Lebanese people want to see actions and not words,” he said. “The actions would be to take steps to truly distance Lebanon from the crisis in Syria and be realistic,” he added.
The Future Movement, which leads the March 14 coalition, has repeatedly warned of the consequences of Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria and called for respecting the Baabda Declaration which seeks to distance the country from the war next door.
“The protection of Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian crisis is [achieved] through Lebanese unity and the backing of the state and its political, military and security institutions so that they can confront terrorism and crime,” Siniora said.
“But essential steps also need to be taken concurrently. First, Hezbollah needs to withdraw from the fighting in Syria and return to Lebanon. Secondly, the security of the Lebanese-Syrian borders should be handed over to the Lebanese Army with backing from international peacekeepers,” he added.
Hariri, for her part, said the blast in Hermel as well as recent border attacks on Lebanese regions indicated that the country as a whole was being targeted with the aim of sowing strife.
“The terrorist bombing that struck Hermel again is another crime against all the Lebanese and is an addition to previous explosions in different regions and attacks on border areas, the most recent of which was Akkar and prior to that Arsal,” she said.
“It is clear that Lebanon is the one target and the aim is apparent: to sow the seeds of strife between the sons of the one nation,” she added.
The Sidon politician said the state needed to take steps to increase efforts to “fortify the internal arena and protect the borders.”
The Lebanese, she also said, “needed to cling and hold onto their unity and peace and show more insistence that Lebanon remain [a country] of pluralism and coexistence.”
“We offer our condolences and condemn these bombings and attacks and offer our condolences to the families of martyrs in Hermel and Akkar,” the lawmaker said.
Meanwhile, president Michel Sleiman said officials and citizens should draw lessons from the recent bombings in Lebanon and act in ways that best serve the country.
“I hope the Lebanese, the leaderships and public opinion, will learn a lesson from the criminal and terrorist acts that are claiming the lives of victims, leaving destruction and [placing] anxiety in the souls [of the Lebanese people],” Sleiman said in a statement.
He also urged political leaders to be aware of the risks facing Lebanon and “act for the best of the national interest by bolstering the unity of the country, maintaining the approach of dialogue and coming together for the sake of our country, peoples’ interests and rights to decent and secure lives.”
The president also urged judicial and security authorities to make the utmost efforts to arrest those behind the Hermel bombing and bring them to justice.