BEIRUT: Interior Minister Marwan Charbel voiced his opposition Friday to the creation of an investigative committee to probe the killings of two Army soldiers in Arsal last week.
“We oppose the establishment of an investigative committee in this case, because the military judiciary has the power to intervene in such matters. The Lebanese Army has the names of the perpetrators [involved in the incident],” Charbel said, addressing a delegation from the Journalists Union who visited him at the Interior Ministry.
He also criticized the delay in issuing a judicial summons for the suspects.
“Why have all the suspects not been summoned? I’m ready to do everything that is asked of me from the judiciary to facilitate the investigation,” he said.
Charbel voiced his readiness to “lift the immunity” of Arsal’s mayor, Ali Hujeiri, if the public prosecutor’s office requested it. Reports have emerged this week that Hujeiri is wanted by the authorities, a charge the mayor has denied.
Meanwhile, Public Prosecutor Hatem Madi referred the Arsal incident to Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr.
Capt. Pierre Bashaalani and Sgt. Ibrahim Zahraman were killed when an Army unit was ambushed by gunmen in the Bekaa town of Arsal last week. The soldiers were trying to capture fugitive Khaled Hmayyed, who was also killed in the incident.
The Future Movement has called for forming an investigative committee on the Arsal incident, a call echoed Friday by MPs from the Lebanese Forces.
The Zahraman family will announce its stance in a news conference Saturday.
Also, Sidon-based Sheikh Ahmad Assir called on his supporters to be ready to assist the people of Arsal, voicing his willingness to defend the village if it is attacked. Addressing participants at a sit-in after Friday prayers in Beirut’s Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood, Assir said the problem was not with regular Army personnel but with Army Intelligence, which he accused of collaborating with Hezbollah, holding them responsible for the soldiers’ deaths.
In Arsal, security sources said the Army maintained its strict security measures in the town and the surrounding areas in a bid to arrest the perpetrators. Army personnel detained Syrians Mohammad and Jamal Saifeddine, who were riding a bike on the outskirts of Arsal. Mohammad Hujeiri, who was disguised as a shepherd, was also detained Thursday. Photos of the Army headquarters in the area were found on his mobile phone, according to reports.