Miqati Urges Calm in Bekaa, Army Says Won't Allow Anyone to Exploit Incident

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati on Sunday urged calm and restraint after a deadly incident in the Bekaa region inflamed sectarian tensions, as the Army Command stressed that it will not allow anyone to take advantage of the situation.

In the wake of the shooting death of three Lebanese Shiites and a Turk whose mother is Lebanese in the barren mountains of the town of Ras Baalbek, Miqati “followed up on the security situation in the Arsal region and northern Bekaa through a series of contacts with Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji and the chiefs of security agencies,” a statement issued by the premier's office said.

Miqati was “briefed by the army commander on the measures taken to arrest those behind the incidents and the acts of killing that happened and means to prevent acts that violate security, especially the blocking of roads and attacks on citizens,” the statement added.

The caretaker premier urged “the residents of Arsal and the neighboring areas to observe calm and restraint and to prevent any attempts to drag their region into a sectarian strife which some parties are trying to stir.”

He also extended condolences to the families of the victims, calling on everyone to “await the outcome of investigations.”

Later on Sunday, the Army Command issued a statement saying its units had staged “manned and armored patrols and erected checkpoints across the region” in the wake of the incident.

Army troops “are still performing their missions to prevent all armed appearances and restore normalcy,” the statement added.

“As the Army Command urges all citizens and families in the Bekaa to rise above the wounds and practice restraint and patience amid the critical situation the country is going through, it stressed that it will not allow anyone to take advantage of the painful incident to undermine national unity and the foundations of coexistence,” it said.

The command urged “the officials concerned to rise to the level of national responsibility and seek the removal of armed appearances and the healing of the rift through all possible means.”

“The command notes that it has started the necessary investigations to uncover the circumstances of the incident and that it will spare no effort to arrest the perpetrators and refer them to the relevant judicial authorities.”

Four people were killed, including two members of the Jaafar clan, when their car came under gunfire in Arsal's barren mountains, state-run National News Agency reported.

The unidentified assailants shot dead "two members of the Jaafar family, an Amhaz family member and a Turk" in an ambush while they were smuggling fuel through the Qaa area, a security source told Agence France Presse, asking not to be named.

The incident occurred in an agricultural part of Qaa, home to a predominantly Sunni population.

Tensions were running high in the wake of the incident, the source said, with armed members of the Jaafar family gathering around five kilometers from the town of Arsal.

According to information obtained by OTV, the ambush “might be linked to the ambush that killed (Arsal resident) Ali al-Hujairi in Hermel.”

“Ali Ahmed al-Hujairi was killed in an ambush by Hizbullah supporters in the barren mountains of (the town of) Beit Jaafar between Akkar and Hermel,” Arsal municipality's deputy chief told MTV on Tuesday.

The Syrian crisis has led to frequent security incidents in the areas of Arsal and Hermel near the border with the war-torn country.

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