TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Gunmen shot dead one soldier and wounded several others Friday, unleashing a series of Army raids in which 41 Syrians and three Lebanese were detained in northern Lebanon, the military said.
A security source told The Daily Star that Jamal Jean al-Hashem, a 19-year-old private in the Army, was instantly killed and several others were wounded in a 4:45 a.m. attack on a military bus carrying troops along the road in Bireh in the northern Akkar district. The Lebanese Army confirmed the assault on the bus, saying the military cordoned off the vicinity where the attack took place.
His body was taken to Salam Hospital in his hometown of Qobeiyat, while sorrow and grief gripped the village as residents blocked the main road in protest.
Hours after the attack, the soldiers rounded up 41 Syrians and three Lebanese during raids on the outer edges of Bireh and Khirbet Daoud, the Army said in a statement.
Some military equipment along with nine motocycles without license plates were also confiscated during the raids, the statement added.
Meanwhile, young men fired gunshots in the air as they marched in Tripoli to mourn the death of Mohammad al-Maneh, a man from Beddawi who was killed in a shootout with the Army Thursday.
The gunfire startled residents, months after a security plan ended the deadly series of clashes between rival neighborhoods Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
In a separate statement, the military said two patrol units came under fire while an unidentified person tossed a hand grenade at one of its centers in al-Bisar neighborhood of Tripoli between 3:33 a.m. and 4:45 a.m.
Soldiers responded to the source of the gunfire and were in pursuit of the perpetrators.
A security source said another Lebanese soldier was wounded when an Army patrol in Zahriyeh, Tripoli, came under fire. He was identified as Jamal Ashek.
Shortly afterwards, the Lebanese Army found a 200 gram homemade bomb near a shop in the Tripoli neighborhood of Abi Samra. Experts safely detonated the explosive device.
The raid against Syrians in Khirbet Daoud came after Lebanese troops searched the house of Atef Saadeddine, a soldier who had deserted the Army, the source said. No arrests were made in the initial raid in their hunt for the bus attackers.
However, an individual in the Tripoli neighborhood of Akoumi was arrested later in the day for his involvement in opening fire on an Army checkpoint in a previous attack.
The Army beefed up its security measures around the city’s mosques during the Friday prayers, as army units checked the identification papers of motorists in search for fugitives.
Hamze Mosque’s Imam, Sheikh Zakaria Abdel-Razzak Masri, called in his Friday sermon on the Army to loosen the measures and stop “suffocating the economic life of the area.”
“There is no need for such a force,” he said. “It should rather be in the southern suburbs [of Beirut] and eastern Bekaa to confront the outlaws, Hezbollah.”
He urged the Army to leave the mosque’s surrounding “before the situations explodes.”