TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Security forces prevented another round of violence in the troubled northern city of Tripoli over the weekend, after political opponents traded accusations over the killing of a senior Arab Democratic Party member.
“The city of Tripoli has witnessed 19 consecutive rounds of violence in the past few years which the Syrian regime and its allies have plotted, and in the process have heavily exhausted the city’s resources and those of its residents, and destroyed peace and stability,” Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said in a statement Sunday.
“Yesterday, the violent scenes nearly played out again after a suspicious crime was committed. However, thanks to the efforts of the city’s honorable officials, notables and politicians, another round was avoided and those who planned it were prevented [from carrying it out],” Rifi added.
“We will continue to prevent similar schemes, which disturb the peace and security of the city,” he said. “As one of Tripoli’s sons and as a member of the executive authority [Cabinet] I will work until the state institutions assume full control of the city’s neighborhoods and security.”
Rifi called on all sects in Tripoli to safeguard the city’s security and refer to state institutions for such matters, namely the judiciary, the security forces and the military establishment, which he said in the past few days had proven they were capable of maintaining security in Tripoli.
“As justice minister, I will push the investigations and measures meant to hold those involved in crimes, bombings and explosions, especially the two that targeted the Al-Salam and Al-Taqwa mosques, accountable for their deeds,” he pledged, calling for the implementation of a comprehensive economic plan for the city, one that will secure jobs for the youth and contribute to the development of the city’s deprived areas.
The recent scare that violence would once again consume the city was prompted last week when Arab Democratic Party Secretary-General Rifaat Eid gave the Lebanese authorities 48 hours to arrest the assassins of Abdel-Rahman Diab or “bear the consequences.”
Diab’s killing Thursday triggered violence that left two people dead and five others wounded.
Eid said Saturday that the 48-hour ultimatum he gave Lebanese authorities following the assassination was aimed at “defusing tensions” among ADP supporters.
“When we announced the 48-hour ultimatum following the killing of Diab, we were trying to cool down the Alawite community and to defuse the people’s anger,” Eid said during a news conference.
“Those hoping that we will strike Tripoli are wrong,” he added.
Diab, an official with the pro-Assad ADP, was gunned down by masked gunmen on a small motorcycle as he drove his Chevy along the coastal Mina highway at dawn.
He died instantly from 12 bullets that pierced his chest, head and neck, security sources had told The Daily Star.
The pro-Assad ADP official said his group “supports the judiciary and the [Lebanese] Army and calls for reconciliation in Tripoli.”
The ADP leader emphasized that his party was not responsible for the twin bombings that targeted the northern city of Tripoli last year.
“We agree with those calling for referring the case [of the twin bombings] as well as the cases of Jabal Mohsen residents who were murdered, to the Judicial Council,” he said, referring to residents of the largely Alawite neighborhood where the party is based.
Recurrent clashes between Jabal Mohsen and the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh have claimed dozens of lives over the past three years.
“We are adamant about our party’s innocence ... and we have evidence against those who tried to implicate us in the blasts,” Eid said.
Civil society in Tripoli organized a march to send a message to opposing political and armed groups in the city of the price they as civilians were paying for their fighting.
The march passed streets between the neighborhood of Al-Farz wil Dam and Al-Nour Square, where they held a demonstration to commemorate all of the 177 victims of the 19 rounds of violence that have targeted their city.
The participants of the march held Lebanese flags and banners demanding that a transparent electoral law be approved and praising the security forces and Army for “protecting the country.”
When they reached Al-Nour Square, the activists observed a moment of silence to honor the victims of violence in the northern city and then chanted the Lebanese national anthem.
“We call on all Lebanese to become real partners. Because what we are living today is what the rulers of this country did to us,” said Amer al-Halabi, the head of the organization Proudly Free Lebanese, which organized the march. “They have caused the deaths of 177 victims due to their loyalty to foreign governments,” he said.
At the very end of the rally participants planted a tree in the roundabout of Al-Nour Square.