Jabal Mohsen Residents Quietly Mourning After Tripoli Bombing

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Mourners carrying coffins of the victims who died after two suicide bombers blew themselves up near a popular café in the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood of Tripoli, Sunday, January 11, 2015. Al-Akhbar/Marwan Tahtah

By: Mohamed Nazzal

Published Monday, January 12, 2015

Two suicide bombers from Tripoli brought the climate of fear back to the city and the entire country after blowing themselves up among the patrons of a popular café in Jabal Mohsen. The bombing, however, did not awaken sectarian strife, which — by Lebanese standards — is an achievement after this slaughter. Nonetheless, people there are worried about the series of repercussions.

A twin suicide bombing hit the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood in Tripoli. The two suicide bombers are Lebanese, from the city itself, and were born and raised in the Mankoubeen neighborhood, only meters away from the Abu Omran coffee house where they blew themselves up. This café is one of the most popular in the area and is frequented by the old and young, in addition to many poor and marginalized youth. This is where blood and body parts mixed with coffee and tea cups.

The two suicide bombers,Taha al-Khayal and Bilal al-Mariyan, originate from the same area they bombed. This is an important detail. For many years, the killers shared the same life of hardship, poverty and deprivation in Tripoli with their victims, with whom they only one difference: their sect.

According to experts at the Lebanese army, at 7:30 pm, the first suicide bomber entered the café wearing an explosive belt weighing 2 kilograms (over 4 pounds), and blew himself up. His act was followed by screaming as body parts, blood and hookahs scattered, mixing with fire and smoke. As is the case after every attack, people ran from every direction to the scene of the bombing. A crowd of dozens, perhaps hundreds, gathered at the entrance of the café. Some were helping the wounded while others were just watching the scene.

Less than 10 minutes later, the second explosion went off. This time, not inside the café, but outside, among the crowds. It was the second suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt that also weighed 2 kilograms. Some of the people who were lightly wounded told Al-Akhbar what they saw. They talked about the courage of one man, that if it weren’t for him, there would have been more than nine martyrs and a lot more injured.

So what happened? The martyr Issa Khaddour known as Abu Ali heard the second suicide bomber saying “God is great” and making a suspicious move so he held him tightly, covering him with his body before the explosion went off. By doing so, he protected the people around him from the shrapnel and metal balls that emanated from the explosive belt.

It is not a coincidence that Khaddour, who pounced on the second suicide bomber, had participated in the resistance against the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982. At the time, he was a member of one of the leftist organizations. He fought the Israelis and survived only to die 33 years later at the hands of a thoughtless, frivolous man.

Screams and cries of help went off again and the noise and the chaos of the rescue effort filled the air, but this time outside the café. The address is al-Sikki Road between Abu Omran and al-Majzoub coffee houses. When the Red Cross teams arrived, the residents had already transferred the more than 50 wounded in their private cars to Our Lady of Zgharta Hospital. The people of Jabal Mohsen are afraid to take their injured to hospitals inside their city, for fear that mobs would kill them. Although the people of Tripoli are not like that, some among them are and these are people who wield influence. Such incidents are known to have taken place during the many prior rounds of fighting between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh.

Adding insult to injury, there is no hospital equipped to treat the wounded in Jabal Mohsen, only a clinic for treating light injuries. Only the nine dead were transferred to the government hospital in the city: “These are martyrs, they’re dead and no one can kill them again,” said Suleiman Ali, who witnessed what happened and lost one of his friends in the massacre.

Because the martyrs of the bombings are not numbers, we speak their names: Issa Khaddour; Yousef Abdo (policeman); Ali Ibrahim (15-years-old); Muhammad Suleiman; Ali Issa; Mahmoud Hassan; Muhammad Berro; Hassan Ibrahim and Yehia Abdel Karim. The wounded included some with critical injuries, some with serious injuries and some suffered amputations.

The people and political forces in Jabal Mohsen, especially the Arab Democratic Party, should be commended because they were not “dragged into a conflict.” This statement will be frequently repeated by prime ministers, ministers and political figures. Indeed, they have succeeded in this regard. Not one bullet was fired in the air in protest, in accordance with the Lebanese habit that has become ubiquitous lately. Even during the solemn funeral yesterday at noon, there was no shooting. Arab Democratic Party official Abdel Latif Saleh succeeded, as he put it, in containing the anger of the youth in the street.

Another party official, Ali Fidda, said: “There should be a sense of responsibility. We call on Dar al-Fatwa to ensure that the preachers inside the mosques act responsibly, we call on Tripoli’s politicians to adopt a unitary national discourse and we will not be dragged into a confrontation.”

However, the absence of Tripoli’s MPs and prominent political figures at the funeral was conspicuous. These are not trivial formalities as far as the Islamic Alawi Council is concerned. Ahmad Assi, the council’s office director regretted the “lack of civility” in dealing with the sect’s Council but he thought this customary “disrespect” will end this time in light of the gravity of the incident. However, nothing changed. “It is as though we are not part of this country whose flag we raise and whose passport we carry,” Assi said.

President of the Council, Sheikh Assad Assi, prayed for the martyrs whose caskets were wrapped with the Lebanese flag and who were transported to the cemetery where the number of graves has increased noticeably in the past few years. The funeral procession was perhaps the largest crowd ever seen in Jabal Mohsen. The women were ululating and throwing rice from the balconies of buildings covered up with a web of power cables that nearly obscured their bullet-hole covered facades against the backdrop of chants proclaiming steadfastness and defiance.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk’s visit to Jabal Mohsen is a kind of political victory for the residents of the neighborhood. By visiting the scene of the blast and chatting with Abdel Latif Saleh, Machnouk took the bombing out of its sectarian context and framed it as an attack on the entire nation. He said: “The Hariri Foundation will take it upon itself to reconstruct the damage and compensate the residents of Jabal Mohsen who were affected by the terrorist bombing that took place.” Machnouk realizes that the residents of Jabal Mohsen “passed the test” with flying colors. They have exhibited nothing but reasonable behavior, that is why he said from Jabal Mohsen: “The people of Tripoli have proven that they believe in the state and its legitimate authorities.”

Sheikh Assi said yesterday: “We will not be dragged into a conflict. The terrorists have a major project but we will overcome their project with our will and steadfastness. The martyrs that fell are like the martyrs that have fallen from all sects. We will support the Lebanese army which has made countless sacrifices and we will continue to call for restraint, to not carry arms and refuse to be dragged into conflict.”

The funeral ended and the people left the cemetery and went their separate ways, except for some women dressed in black who continued to stand next to the graves. Outside, the obsessive question presented to many was whether this bombing was a one-time, isolated incident or whether there will be a series of bombings. People in Jabal Mohsen are worried. They are patient and trusting in God, but are also worried and beneath this anxiety lies a sense of mounting anger.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Khaddour is the real Arab hero & martyr - killed by a manipulated, poor wretch.

Really wish this community in Lebanon can be protected from these psycho Wahabis. Dare I say "I am Jabal Mohsen and Gaza and Syrian and not Charlie Abdo."

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