34 Charged over Arsal Army Ambush, Municipal Chief Summoned

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Suspected members of an armed group were on Monday charged in connection with the ambush of an army patrol in the northeastern town of Arsal that left two soldiers dead.

State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged 34 people and summoned Arsal municipal chief, Ali al-Hujairi, to question him as a witness, the state-run National News Agency said.

Two of the suspects are in custody while the identities of 25 others are known and investigators are trying to identify the rest, it said.

The charges include the killing of two soldiers, the attempted murder of others and the seizure of their vehicle, NNA said. The suspects face the death penalty if convicted.

Saqr referred the file to the first Military Examining Magistrate Riyad Abu Ghida to question the suspects in addition to hearing the testimony of al-Hujairi.

The army said that earlier in the month 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 said.

But Arsal residents claimed that the soldiers were in civilian clothes and hadn't informed the town's authorities that they were planning to carry out a raid.

Since then, the military has set up checkpoints at Arsal's entrances, searching all vehicles entering the town and exiting it.

Al-Hujairi said on Sunday during a visit by a Mustaqbal movement delegation to the town that army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji should hear the two versions of the story.

Al-Hujairi and his son have appeared on a video broadcast by a local channel showing the town's residents encircling the soldiers wounded in the ambush.

President Michel Suleiman said Monday that “attacks against the army are unacceptable regardless of their reasons” and “justice will take its course.”

Comments 17
Thumb primesuspect 11 February 2013, 12:07

shame on these criminals!

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 11 February 2013, 13:29

A criminal is a person convicted of a crime. These are either suspects or accused. The shame is on those that brought us to this situation where many regions had to feel the need to self-protect itself by arming itself. The shame is also on a military that refused to protect large section of lebanese in 2007 and forcing them to arm to protect themselves. And yes shame on anyone that shot at the army if they knew it was the army. If they did not know, then they thought they were protecting their own.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 11 February 2013, 14:23

Stargate - Arsal does not live in isolation. After the Hizb and allied militia stormed Beirut and the Jabal and the army refused to protect these regions, many "sunnis" started to believe that they must protect themselves. When in 2008, a coup was staged against the government, this alienation only increased. Stargate - you are the one making stories. The FSA never overan arsal, these gunmen were not wanted. The only one wanted was the one subject to the arrest warrant. The measure of guilt should be: when an accused was firing, did he know he was shooting at the army or protecting their town from attack.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 11 February 2013, 13:31

Blah blah blah. A supporter of a genocidal regime who is the biggest purpetrator of terror is complaining about terror.

Missing lappeaudecouille 11 February 2013, 13:47

rafehh it always seems that you're in defense of the sunni community first whereas it's supposed to be the opposite.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 11 February 2013, 14:11

Where did I mention Sunnis? Why am I not supposed to defend Sunnis or any other group? I defended some of the venomous attacks on hizb and nasrallah only few days ago! But yes it seems that the sunni community is under concerted attack. And as a lebanese "sunni" I feel abandoned by a state and a military that has refused or were unable to protect large section of its people in 2007, that allowed the coup in 2008 to happen, that allow militias, that does not enforce the law consistantly and equitably, that is forcing people to believe that they must protect itself. Shall I continue? I (and most Sunnis) want a state, a police and a military that can protect citizens - not to stand idly by when they are attacked.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 11 February 2013, 15:11

FT - during nahr al bared and some of the incidents in tripoli, the people of the area ("sunnis") are the one that rushed to the defense of the army and held the line against Fatah el islam till the army re-enforcements arrived. To compare the two incidents is dishonest or ignorant as to what happened in nahr al bared. I urge you to go back and read about it.

The storming of Beirut and jabal in 2007 by the Hizb and allied militias cannot be erased from the memory of many lebanese - this includes jumblat. In 2008, the hizb and its allies staged the black shirt coup when they put on the street hundreds of paramilitaries prompting jumblat (and others) to jump ship.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 11 February 2013, 15:24

Stargate - say as you may about saniora and hariri. It is your right. However, both of these people believe in the state and rule of state over all its territories. As for Assir, my position is clear to everyone about mixing religion and politics. I wish the people of the cloth (no matter what their sect is) simply not deal in politics because it corrupts the person, religion and politics. As for al mustaqbal, they have been demanding that the army control the border from day one. They have been demanding arms-free tripoli, beirut and all of lebanon. In case of a civil war or civil disturbence, the biggest loser (as a political grouping) will be al mustaqbal.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 11 February 2013, 15:29

Now your point that I (or the mustaqbal or the sunnis) wanting to take on HA and Shia is incorrect to say the least. In 2006, I was one of the main organizers of protest against israeli agression in vancouver and took 1.5 months off my work to do so. I was attacked venemousely by the pro-israeli groups (google rafeh hulays) Approx. 20-25 percent of sunnis belong to m8 and some are among the biggest chearleaders of the hizb. Till 2007 storming of beirut, most sunnis supported the hizb and its retaining of its weapons. The only issue is that they wanted the decision of initiating any hostility to be that of the lebanese government. As for the syrian government, I have no sympathies. It is a criminal regime that must go. The million dollars question: to be replaced with what considering the chaos.

Thumb arzak-ya-libnan 11 February 2013, 14:00

I hope these guys are actually punished and not let loose with an "apology" like the Hanna case.. funny how when one side attacks the army some people cry out.. but when it is the other side they create excuses for what happened... may ANYONE who attacks the army rot in jail.

Thumb arzak-ya-libnan 11 February 2013, 14:00

I hope these guys are actually punished and not let loose with an "apology" like the Hanna case.. funny how when one side attacks the army some people cry out.. but when it is the other side they create excuses for what happened... may ANYONE who attacks the army rot in jail.

Missing lappeaudecouille 11 February 2013, 14:53

Arzak ya libnan you are right. HA killed Samer Hanna and we should condemn them and bring the culprits to justice and make sure they cannot go around doing whatever they want however i do also think that we cannot wage a war on HA because it will backfire on all Lebanese and create unnecessary disruptions. The only way out is through dialogue. Also i do no think that it is HA's arms specifically that are keeping Lebanon unstable. It is actually all the external forces. Russia and Iran from one side and USA-Qatar and Saudi Arabia from the other.We're being played and it is really out of our hands to force major changes except for keeping calm and move on :P

Missing lappeaudecouille 11 February 2013, 15:00

Also i was in Tunisia this past week and i heard something very familiar that reminded me of one of the many narratives we hear in Lebanon. They claim that Saudi Arabia and Qatar poured all their money into the last elections to bring the islamists into power. So just you guys see it is not only us but the entire region that is being controlled.

Missing mansour 11 February 2013, 15:12

If there Guilty HANG EM and if there innocent HANG EM....
Long Live The Syrian Civil War!

Thumb mouallek 11 February 2013, 16:11

I heard about people who are paid to go into Internet forums and shill for certain causes. I think that explains you, unless, of course, you are led by your extreme stupidity.

Default-user-icon Tom (Guest) 11 February 2013, 20:52

I have to admit that the HA Beirut takeover in 2008 really took away their credibility with a lot of sects that were either supporters or at least neutral on them. Although many of us may have supported another party we respected their ability to defend Lebanon against external threats and did not expect them to turn their guns inwards. I think the threat against their phone network did not justify their response. I believe this took away any credibility they had. And we need to have a level playing field in terms of the defense and safety of all sects not just Shiite.

Default-user-icon trueself (Guest) 12 February 2013, 12:58

The army should be spared from any politicization. The army is the only stabilizing force we have in Lebanon. Should we lose that, only god could know what the repercussions would be! I could live with disagreements amongst political leaders and party members, but the army should always be viewed as uniting not splitting.