TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi visited troops in north Lebanon Thursday as the military pushed ahead with a widespread manhunt for Islamist militants who fled after fighting soldiers over the weekend, arresting dozens.
Kahwagi's tour included the port city of Tripoli and the northern region of Akkar where he visited military centers and briefed officers on the next phase of their operations.
The state-run National News Agency added that the commander consoled troops over the deaths of their 11 comrades during the weekend battles in the north.
The visit came as the Army announced it had arrested a total of 71 suspected militants over Wednesday in north Lebanon, the Bekaa province of Rashaya and the northeastern border area of Wadi Hmeid on the outskirts of Arsal.
The suspects were arrested for alleged links to terrorist groups and involvement in gunbattles against the Lebanese Army, according to Army statements.
The Army said assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, hand grenades, military gear, cameras and communication devices had been seized during the raids.
Among the arrests was a Lebanese man identified as Abdullah Mahmoud Hujeiri, who failed to heed to orders to stop at a Lebanese Army checkpoint in Wadi Hmeid.
He admitted to having smuggled weapons and food supplies to “terrorists” on the outskirts near the northeastern border.
According to one statement, three more gunmen handed themselves in to the Lebanese Army late Wednesday, bringing the total number of those who have surrendered to six.
The NNA said a Syrian man identified as Shadi K., one of the commanders of an armed group that had fought in Syria’s Krak des Chevaliers, was detained.
The most recent arrests push to nearly 300 the number of suspected militants captured since the fierce, four-day battle erupted between the Army and Islamists in Tripoli and other areas in the north Friday.
Some 20 individuals were arrested in north and south Lebanon earlier Wednesday, including eight Syrians detained during raids on Syrian refugee sites in Minyeh on suspicion of having links to armed groups.
The fighting that killed 42 people, including eight civilians and 11 Army soldiers, was among the fiercest bouts of violence in Tripoli since the outbreak of the Syria war in 2011.