BEKAA/BEIRUT: Two policemen and two soldiers were wounded Friday in separate shootings over the crackdown on cannabis fields in east Lebanon, security sources said. An Army major and lieutenant were wounded when a joint force came under fire by farmers in the Yammouneh area of Baalbek, a security source told The Daily Star. The force was destroying cannabis fields.
The Lebanese Army confirmed the incident, saying the Army force came under fire during the eradication of the crop and that two soldiers had been wounded by gunmen using medium and light weaponry.
The soldiers fired back at the source of the shooting. “The Army has begun carrying out raids in the location of the shooters and pursuing those who fled to the mountains surrounding the region, while the process of eradicating the crop continues in accordance with the scheduled program,” the army said.
Yammouneh Mayor Mohammad Ali Sharif said Friday that tensions have been running high in Baalbek since security forces began destroying cannabis fields in Yammouneh.
Sharif told The Daily Star that the security force – operating on orders of the Central Office for Drug Control – came under fire after a group of cannabis farmers failed to convince its members to stop the crackdown.
“The farmers had requested that the security force leave the area, but negotiations failed and the shooting began,” Sharif said.
Earlier Friday, two policemen were wounded when gunmen shot at a police station near the Baalbek Serail, according to another security source.
The source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the policeman as Ali Raad. The other policeman was wounded in the neck.
The source said the shooting is likely related to the eradication of cannabis fields in the Bekaa.
The crackdown on the crop which began last week saw policemen come under fire by cannabis farmers in more than one incident.
Around 35,000 dunams in northern Bekaa are believed to be used for the cultivation of cannabis, which has long flourished in the fertile valley.
The total area of cannabis fields eradicated in the Bekaa and elsewhere thus far in the ongoing operation has reached 6,615 dunams, the ISF said in a statement Thursday.