TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Renewed sniper fire in the northern city of Tripoli wounded a 16-year-old girl Thursday as the military launched a series of raids in search for gunmen behind the killing of an Army officer and a policeman.
Maryam Qassem was wounded in her arm by intermittent sniper fire in Jabal Mohsen, security sources said
The Army and security agencies put on hold a plan aimed at restoring order in the northern city of Tripoli until the assailants behind the killing of security personnel, security sources said.
The news emerged mere hours after Internal Security Forces Adjutant Butros al-Bayea, 43, was shot and killed by masked gunmen following a call by an influential cleric for Sunni youth to "rise up" and "defend their rights."
Bayea's attackers opened fire on his Range Rover on the Majdlaya highway that links Tripoli to Zghorta, hitting him in the head, neck and chest and killing him instantly, security sources said.
The vehicle then crashed into the nearby Abu Ali River.
Less than an hour later, gunmen fired an AK-47 round toward police Cpl. Samer Dandashi, but missed their target, the security sources said.
Separately, a man from the Al-Khazma family was severely wounded when an unknown assailant stabbed him repeatedly in the Al-Tal neighborhood. He was transferred to the Islamic Hospital.
On Thursday, masked gunmen on a motorcycle shot Warrant Officer Fadi Ali Jbeili in the back from close range Thursday. He was rushed to hospital where he died soon after.
The Army carried out raids throughout the city Friday, particularly in the Abi Samra neighborhood, searching for the perpetrators behind multiple attacks on security personnel and soldiers.
An investigation has also been launched in cooperation with the various agencies to verify whether the series of attacks are part of an orchestrated campaign of aggression or coincidental and unrelated, the security source said.
“This is why the military has suspended the implementation of the security plan, because the Army cannot undertake such a task if it is working in a hostile environment,” the source said.
The city has been plagued by a series of Syria-linked clashes, with militant groups increasingly targeting the Army and security forces, which have been tasked with keeping the peace in the restive northern city.
Tripoli-based Dai al-Islam al-Shahal, the founder of the Salafist Movement in north Lebanon, released a recording later Thursday urging Sunnis to rise up and defend their rights.
"I call on Sunni youth to prepare [themselves] because the time has come," he said.
"Tomorrow [Friday] is the day to turn the page and open a new one to make them understand that we are an umma [Islamic nation] that defends its rights ... so let’s go, Sunni youth, victory is upon us,” Shahal added.
The past few days have been marked by sporadic sniper fire and isolated attacks, capping off over a week of clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad which killed at least 30 people.
Tripoli has been the scene of at least 20 rounds of armed clashes linked to the three-year-old crisis in neighboring Syria. The fighting has pitted Sunni gunmen in Bab al-Tabbaneh, who support Syrian rebels, against the Alawite minority in Jabal Mohsen, which enjoys close ties with the Syrian regime.
President Michel Sleiman issued a statement condemning attacks against the military and security forces, saying such aggression would not deter the authorities from implementing the security plan for Tripoli.
“Terrorist attacks against soldiers and security forces will not deter these forces from carrying out the Cabinet's order to preserve security and stability regardless of the sacrifices,” Sleiman said, according to his office.
He also expressed his condolences to the families of the policeman and the Army officer, praising the role of the military and security forces in putting an end to the phenomenon of terrorism, referring to Thursday’s arrest of wanted terror suspect Sami Atrash.
Atrash was described by Army Intelligence as a dangerous suspect accused of preparing car bombs, killing soldiers and firing rockets into Lebanese villages and town. Atrash was wounded in a shootout with soldiers and later died in a Baalbek hospital.
In a statement, the president also urged security agencies to remain strict in dealing with "terrorists and criminals, whatever the price, for the sake of civil peace and security."
Meanwhile, relatives of men killed in Syria held a protest and blocked the road leading to the border town of Abboudiyeh, demanding the repatriation of bodies.
The protesters claimed that some 50 Lebanese who fought alongside rebel groups against regime forces were killed in fierce battles for the historic citadel known as Krak des Chevaliers in Homs.
On March 20, the Syrian army retook the famed crusader castle, which was used by rebels as a hideout.