Several Residents Arrested as Army Draws Tight Dragnet Around Arsal

The Lebanese army arrested several residents of the northeastern town of Arsal on Saturday a day after two soldiers were killed when gunmen ambushed a military patrol, the National News Agency reported.

NNA said the men were arrested either for the possession of illegal arms or for failing to stop at several checkpoints set up by the military at the entrances of the town.

The agency said the military sent armored vehicles to the northeastern Bekaa valley starting 3:00 am, drawing a tight security dragnet around Arsal by 8:00 am.

Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn reiterated on Saturday that it was unacceptable to attack the military a day after an army communique said Friday that a patrol was ambushed by Arsal gunmen as it was hunting a man wanted for several terrorist acts.

The clashes that ensued left an officer with the rank of captain, Pierre Bashaalani, and Sergeant Ibrahim Zahraman dead, and several military personnel wounded, it added.

NNA said Saturday that the patrol's vehicles were carrying military license plates unlike what several residents of Arsal claimed to be plainclothes men in humvees.

Zahraman's relatives blocked for a short period on Saturday al-Sheikh Mohammed and Halba roads in the northern district of Akkar with burning tires to protest the failure to hand over several of the gunmen involved in the ambush.

Bashaalani's family had also blocked al-Mreijat and Tal Amara-Riyaq road in the Bekaa.

Zahraman was laid to rest on Saturday afternoon while Bashaalani's funeral will be held on Sunday.

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