BEIRUT: A delegation of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya visited Lebanon’s Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi Thursday to offer condolences over the killing of two Lebanese soldiers in the eastern town of Arsal last week, a statement from the group said.
The delegation, headed by MP Imad al-Hout, voiced concern “over the repeated attempts to play the Army off against its supporters.”
The ambush that targeted the military Friday killed Sergeant Ibrahim Zahraman, 32, who was laid to rest Saturday afternoon in his hometown of Akkar, north Lebanon and Captain Pierre Bashalani, 31, who was laid to rest in the Zahle town of Mreijet Sunday.
The attack on the Army patrol apparently came in response to the killing of Hmayyed, himself a resident of the predominantly Sunni town of Arsal.
According to the Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya statement, Kahwagi briefed the group about the investigation into the incident.
“The Army commander expressed his concern for both Arsal residents and the military institution,” said the statement.
Baalbek Mufti Sheikh Ayman Rifai also paid a separate visit to Khawagi to offer him condolences over Zahraman and Bashalani’s killings.
Future Movement MP Nuhad Mashnouq said in an interview aired late Wednesday that both the Lebanese Army and Arsal residents committed “big mistakes” during last week’s military operation to arrest a wanted resident from the eastern Bekaa town.
“A big mistake was committed by all the sides – the [Lebanese] Army’s strike force and the Intelligence – that initially carried out the kill operation of Khalid Hmayyed,” Mashnouq told the Future television station.
“An even bigger mistake was committed by Arsal’s men when they chased them [soldiers] and opened fire on them, killing and wounding” a number of troops, Mashnouq added.
Mashnouq said there is information that Bashalani was killed when a Humvee ran over him, not by gunfire. He did not elaborate.
“I do not want to defend anyone, but a barbaric act took place as a result of the death of Khalid Hmayyed by an unknown party, and we want a military tribunal committee to run the investigation, name those responsible and try them according to the law.”
Mashnouq hailed the Lebanese Army and stressed that whatever comes from the military tribunal must surely be true and without question.
“The Lebanese will approve whatever the military judiciary says,” he said.
However, he said statements made by the head of the Army Intelligence Edmond Fadel were “not based on judicial evidence.”
“These are big accusations that cannot be made against anyone at a time when the prosecutor says there are no arrest warrants against anyone,” Mashnouq said.
Fadel has said Hmayyed was a member of the Nusra Front, a militant Islamist group with ties to Al-Qaeda.