Lebanon: Tripoli’s Armed Commanders Mutiny Against Future

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For years now they have been mobilized, armed, and funded to snipe at the adjacent Alawi neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen by either politicians belonging to the Future Party or local Salafi sheikhs. (Photo: Adel Karroum)

By: Radwan Mortada

Published Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It appears that Tripoli’s armed commanders, who control the strategic neighborhoods in the Sunni Bab al-Tabanneh district, have had enough.

For years now they have been mobilized, armed, and funded to snipe at the adjacent Alawi neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen by either politicians belonging to the Future Party or local Salafi sheikhs.

To the surprise of many, the commanders met recently under the name of the “Popular Committees in Tripoli” and issued a declaration of principles primarily directed against their traditional patrons, the Future Party and Salafi sheikhs.

“We reject the fact that our people in Tripoli are paying for political instability tied to foreign projects,” it read, adding that the Sunni political establishment represents only itself and not the sect.

They further demanded that the “state and the security forces do their part to protect the people of the North and Tripoli in particular against attacks by the gangs of the Syrian regime.”

The statement warned that the economic and social situation in Tripoli has deteriorated to such an extent that it is bound to unravel in the near future.

“We’ve had enough,” said one of the commanders who goes by the name of Ziad al-Awlaki, “we are no longer willing to be exploited by the politicians,” explaining that the declaration was the outcome of a month and a half of meetings and discussions.

“We will no longer accept after today to be provoked to fight our Shia and Alawi brothers,” he added, expressing a sense frustration with the interminable fighting.

Many in Tripoli interpreted this step as an attempt by the commanders to pull the rug out from under a Salafi sheikh, whom they accuse of embezzling funds from foreign sources intended to support their struggle.

The commanders also singled out the most prominent military face of the Future Movement, former Lebanese army officer Amid Hammoud, saying he was responsible for much of Tripoli’s insecurity. In particular, they say that Hammoud is behind the recent spate of hand grenade attacks.

According to informed sources in Tripoli, the commanders’ “intifada” enjoys the support of a high-level security official in the North in addition to an official from Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office in the city.

The sources confirmed that the leaders of local armed groups have been meeting over the past few weeks in order find ways to bring calm to the troubled city.

This, in turn, angered Hammoud and other Future officials, who sought to play the role of spoiler, thus prompting the commanders to come out into the open with their objections.

They had scheduled a press conference to take place on 11 March, but canceled it after the intervention of a number of Tripoli’s leaders and sheikhs who warned against such divisions among Sunnis, saying that it would only benefit the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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