Lebanese security forces launch new security plan in Bekaa Valley

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Lebanon's rural Bekaa Valley. Al-Akhbar/Bilal Jawish

Published Monday, November 17, 2014

The actual implementation of a new security plan in the Bekaa Valley has begun. The area’s residents have welcomed the move as the situation has become unbearable for them. As of yesterday, the plan resulted in the seizure of an arms depot and the confiscation of a truck full of hashish.

A new security plan has been launched in the Bekaa. On the surface, there appears to be more military reinforcements and mobilization compared to previous operations. But in reality, the situation is not that much different. According to a security official, the plan is expected to be executed in less than 10 days. And, as usual, information about its launch date and the number of personnel involved was circulated on social networking sites hours before the security agencies began to mobilize.

The new security plan was launched on Saturday, November 15, at dawn, following an unprecedented wave of lawlessness in the Bekaa that included car thefts and demands for ransom for their return; bank robberies (500 million Lebanese Lira [$330,469] were stolen from the al-Jamal Bank in Baalbek); mugging of fishermen; imposing taxes on business owners in Baalbeck and its suburbs, and kidnapping in return for ransom.

The most recent incident was the kidnapping of a Kuwaiti national named Muzaffar al-Hajiri two months ago, who was released last week after a ransom of $400,000 was paid.

The residents of the Bekaa have had enough of the persistent lack of security.

For them, the situation has become “unbearable,” and the government has to take serious action to implement its security plan and arrest “a few thugs who are compromising people’s safety and livelihood in an entire area,” according to a Baalbek resident who voiced his pain and frustration.

Behind this pain, confidence in the state and its security plans has wavered, as residents wonder whether there is “a point in implementing these security plans if the people undermining the area’s security are not arrested?”

Until Saturday evening, the security plan had still not led to the arrest of persons wanted by security agencies and the judiciary. However, an arms depot in the town of Brital and four trucks loaded with hashish in the town of Dar al-Wassia have been confiscated.

The town of Btedi’i, which is adjacent to Dar al-Wasia, was shocked by the killing of Nadima Fakhri, a local resident, who was shot dead by gunmen being pursued by the army who had tried to use the cars belonging to the Fakhri family to flee. Nadima, her husband Sobhi, and their son Romeo were wounded, and were transferred to Dar al-Amal University Hospital in Doros. Nadima succumbed to her injuries, while her husband and son are still at the hospital being treated.

Saturday, residents of Btedi’i and Deir al-Ahmar blocked the Iyat-Deir al-Ahmar road while holding a sit-in to protest against the crime and demand the arrest of the perpetrators. The sit-in was attended by Father Hanna Rahme, the Vicar General of the Maronite Diocese of Baalbek and Deir al-Ahmar, and mayors of towns in the area.

Patrick Sobhi Fakhri, one of the deceased woman’s sons, said, “The family will not accept this and is not concerned with statements of condemnation. The Jaafar family are responsible and have to hand the criminals over to the government, and we hope that they won’t force the Fakhri family to seek restitution through revenge. If the state does not fulfill its obligations, there will be bloodshed. This should be known by all involved parties. The family does not want to resort to arms, but the state’s silence is extremely dangerous.”

Participants in the sit-in called on Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, and Army Chief Jean Kahwaji to assume their responsibilities

“Deir al-Ahmar and its surrounding area view the crime as an individual incident, but no one should provide cover for these criminals. Everyone should assume their duties, take appropriate action, and bring their criminal relatives to justice. This will mend our wounds and preserve coexistence,” Rahme stressed.

“There is a big problem, and those responsible for the crime are known. The Jaafar family should assume their responsibility to preserve civil peace. The state is our refuge, and we have so far managed to keep our youths under control. But there is a limit to our patience. Our people want to live [in peace]. The Jaafar family should know that we share a common path and a common life, and they should take a serious, clear, and bold decision. Northern Bekaa is seen as corrupt because of a few outlaws, and this is unacceptable,” he added.

The Jaafar clan issued a statement after a meeting held in Dar al-Wasia, in which they expressed “deep regret for the death of the dear sister Nadima Fakhri,” noting that they have “not responded out of respect for the feelings of our brothers from the Fakhri family.”

“Some media outlets that are known to sow division among the Lebanese have stoked the flames of sectarian strife, which compels us to clarify a few points. The Fakhri family and the Deir al-Ahmar area know very well that the Jaafar family has been at the forefront throughout the past years in the defense of the Deir al-Ahmar area, consistent with the teachings of [founder of Amal Movement] Sayyed Musa Sadr,” the statement added.

“Entering the Fakhri home was to seek protection and ask for help based on a decades-long personal acquaintanceship between the families. However, a fight broke out inside the house, and sister Nadima Fakhri was hit as a result of the random shooting.”

The statement concluded by calling for “the judiciary, particularly the military justice system, to continue the investigation into the incident.”

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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