TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Tensions ran high Tuesday in the northern city of Tripoli after the Army arrested a member of an armed gang, raising fears of a repeat of the violence that has hit the city several times this year.
Around midnight soldiers arrested the brother of Ziyad Allouki, the leader of an armed gang in the neighborhood of Abou Ali River. Allouki later threatened the military with a battle if his brother was not released.
Members of the gang began firing shots in the air and tossed hand grenades in the area surrounding the river, spreading panic among residents of Lebanon's second largest city and prompting the Army to dispatch more soldiers around the area.
Tripoli-based sources told The Daily Star Tuesday that there were ongoing negotiations with Allouki and that the military is adamant on maintaining security in the city.
Fighting in recent months between the rival districts of Bab al-Tabbaneh, where the majority backs the Syrian uprising, and Jabal Mohsen, where many support President Bashar Assad, have killed tens of people and left more than 100 wounded.
In response to the August clashes this year, the city's political and security figures agreed to a cease-fire and called for the reinforcement of the Army’s presence, which in turn implemented a security plan to restore order in Tripoli.
Since then, the Army has detained some 18 gunmen and seized large quantities of arms and ammunition.
In the past few weeks, grenades have been thrown and there has been sporadic shooting.
The Future Movement has repeatedly accused the Syrian regime of attempting to import its crisis to Tripoli and divert attention away from its own domestic conflict.
Speaking to The Daily Star Monday, Tripoli MP Mustafa Alloush said the Syrian regime is attempting to incorporate Tripoli into its battles in a bid to hold on to power for longer. “The situation in Tripoli is unstable, [and will remain so] as long as there is a group that is trying to link the city’s stability with the fate of the Assad regime that will definitely collapse,” said the Future Movement lawmaker.
“There are military barracks in Jabal Mohsen, and armed groups connected to Hezbollah who are trying to bring instability. All these attempts are part of the regime’s plan to widen the geography of the killings,” Alloush added.
Hezbollah has been accused of having armed and funded the pro-Assad fighters in Jabal Mohsen, but the resistance party has denied such allegations.