Lebanese Army Vows to Restore Order Amid Clashes

Posted October 22nd, 2012 at 9:40 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The Lebanese army says it will act decisively to quell unrest linked to the Syrian conflict, as six people were wounded in clashes in southern Beirut Monday following the assassination of a top security official.

Soldiers and tanks were deployed between Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods in the capital's Kaskas district Monday, trying to bring calm to the area. Separate fighting in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli killed at least one person and wounded 10 others.

After the clashes, the army command urged political leaders to use caution in their public statements so as not to inflame passions further.

It said the military will take “decisive measures, particularly in areas with rising religious tensions” to prevent Lebanon from again being transformed into a place for “regional score settling.”

Meanwhile, a group of protesters continues to occupy tents erected outside Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati's central Beirut office, vowing to remain there until he resigns. Earlier, Lebanese security forces forcefully dispersed demonstrators who were trying to storm the building.

Lebanon has been on edge since Friday after Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, an intelligence chief opposed to the Syrian leadership, was assassinated in a car bombing. Many politicians have accused Syria of being behind the killing and Sunday's protests followed Hassan's funeral in central Beirut.

Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister and a prominent Sunni Muslim politician, attacked the government during an angry funeral oration, saying, “The Lebanese people will not accept, after today, the continuation of the government of assassination.”

Opposition leaders want Mr. Mikati to resign, saying he is too close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah, which is part of the Mikati government.

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri and opposition leader Walid Jumblatt have both accused Mr. Assad of being behind the blast.

Hassan had led an investigation into a recent bomb plot that resulted in the arrest of a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician. He also led a probe that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the truck bomb killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also pointed to a Damascus connection, telling French television, “We don't yet know exactly who is behind this but everything indicates that this is an extension of the Syrian tragedy.”