Lebanon News

MPs, religious leaders decry Arsal ambush

Lebanese soldiers on armored vehicles patrol the area in Arsal, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)

BEIRUT: Political and religious figures in Lebanon denounced Saturday the recent ambush in the east of the country that led to the death of two members of the Lebanese Army.

“The president denounces the Arsal incident and the repeated attacks against the Army and any violation of the state’s authority,” a statement from President Michel Sleiman’s office said.

Two Lebanese soldiers and a wanted man were killed Friday when an Army patrol trying to apprehend the man was ambushed in the eastern border town of Arsal.

Captain Pierre Bashalani, 31, and Sergeant Ibrahim Zahraman, 32, were identified by the Army as the two slain soldiers. The military said they were killed in an ambush by gunmen on a military patrol on the outskirts of Arsal. The soldiers were attempting to apprehend a man wanted “for several terrorist acts.”

Sleiman called on the Army Saturday to act “firmly with anyone violating the law and urged the Army to apprehend the gunmen and bring them to justice.”

He also called on the authorities to bring those behind the incident to account.

“The security apparatuses should intensify efforts to locate the places that the gunmen fled to and bring them to justice,” the president said.

On Saturday, the country’s defense minister said at least four gunmen who were trying to flee to the outskirts of Arsal had been apprehended.

Hezbollah described Saturday the incident as a “criminal attack” on the Army and called on the Lebanese to rally around the military and support it, according to a statement from the party.

The resistance group also urged “relevant authorities to take all measures that will prevent the repetition of such attacks and bring the violators to justice.”

For his part, Maronite Cardinal Beshara Rai extended his condolences to the families of the victims as well as the Army Command.

He warned that “the spread of arms in the country has become a real threat to citizens.”

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also condemned the “blatant” attack against the military and extended his condolences to the army, an LF statement said.

Geagea stressed that the state and its military were the sole authorities tasked with the responsibility of protecting the country and maintaining its stability.

The Future Movement also issued a statement denouncing “any attack against the Army or any other security apparatus” and called on Arsal residents to cooperate with the relevant authorities.

According to the party’s statement, “a group from Army Intelligence entered Arsal in civilian clothing and civilian cars to perform a security task.”

“However, the residents thought they were an armed group threatening their stability which led to the confrontation with the army,” the statement added.

Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said attack on the army was unacceptable, according to statement from Dar al-Fatwa.

“Opening fire on members of the Lebanese Army is totally unacceptable, whatever the reason [may be],” the statement said.

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora also said the incident was “unacceptable under any pretext.”

“We are in a state governed by the rule of law and [we] denounce any attack against the state, its military and security institutions,” the head of the Future parliamentary bloc said in a statement.

Siniora also said the state should extend its authority throughout the country and voiced opposition to the logic of “security by consensus.”

“The experiences of Lebanese have shown that there is no such thing as security by consensus and that it is unacceptable to have areas outside the control of the state,” he said.

MP Sami Gemayel voiced support to the military.

“God Bless our Army, heroes and martyrs,” he said in a Twitter post Saturday.

“It’s time for all the Lebanese parties to stop tolerating any illegal weapons on Lebanese soil,” he added.





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