BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army will begin enforcing a government security plan to end violence in Tripoli at the weekend, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Friday, as a police officer was killed in the latest attacks targeting security forces in the restive northern city.
“The Army and security forces will carry out their duties to consolidate the security situation in Tripoli by implementing judicial warrants to arrest wanted people, including militia leaders,” Machnouk told The Daily Star.
“The security plan for Tripoli will be enforced in the next 48 hours.”
Machnouk denied reports claiming that the Army and security forces had put the Tripoli security plan on hold until the assailants behind the killing of an Army officer and a policeman were apprehended.
A military official said the Army was preparing to beef up security in Tripoli, ravaged by several rounds of fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the uprising began in Syria in March 2011.
“The Army is making logistical preparations to carry out the Cabinet decision to control the security situation in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley,” the official told The Daily Star.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam said he hoped the results of the Tripoli security plan would be felt in the coming days.
“The government is adamant about its plan to confront difficulties facing the country, with the security situation being at the top of its priorities for now,” Salam was quoted as saying during a meeting with a delegation from the Press Federation.
President Michel Sleiman condemned attacks against the military and security forces, saying such incidents would not stop 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.
He praised the role of the military and security forces in fighting terrorism, referring to Thursday’s arrest of wanted terror suspect Sami Atrash.
Atrash was described by Army Intelligence as a “dangerous terrorist” who was accused of preparing car bombs, killing soldiers and firing rockets into Lebanese villages and towns. Atrash was wounded in a shootout with soldiers and later died in a Baalbek hospital.
During its first meeting Thursday, the Cabinet approved a security plan in a bid to end the state of chaos and sectarian fighting between gunmen in the Sunni majority Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood and their rivals in the Alawite Jabal Mohsen district.
The plan calls for the Lebanese Army and security forces to control the situation in Tripoli by preventing the use of arms, seizing stockpiled weapons in the city and implementing judicial warrants for individuals wanted in relation to kidnappings, car thefts and forgeries in the northern Bekaa Valley area.
In the latest attacks targeting security forces in Tripoli, Internal Security Forces Adjutant Butros al-Bayea was shot and killed by masked gunmen following a call by Tripoli-based Dai al-Islam al-Shahal, the founder of the Salafist Movement in north Lebanon, 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.
In a similar incident Thursday, masked gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed Fadi Ali Jbeili, 40, a Lebanese Army warrant officer in Tripoli. Also, gunmen fired an AK-47 at police Cpl. Samer Dandashi, but missed their target.
As renewed sniper fire wounded a 16-year-old girl, the Army carried out raids throughout the city, particularly in the Abi Samra neighborhood, searching for the perpetrators of multiple attacks on security personnel and soldiers.
The Army said Friday it raided an arms cache in the village of Aydamoun in the northern region of Akkar overnight, seizing a large quantity of weapons and materials used to make bombs.
The military arrested nine Syrians, including three gunmen, in the rugged mountainous outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal near the border with Syria as they attempted to illegally enter the town, the National News Agency reported.
Elsewhere, state security personnel arrested six Syrians in the western Bekaa town of Rashaya who illegally entered Lebanon, the NNA said.