Qahwaji Says IS Wants to Ignite Civil War in Lebanonإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji has accused the Islamic State group of seeking to ignite civil war in Lebanon and of relying on sleeper cells in the northern district of Akkar and the port city of Tripoli.
In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, Qahwaji said the terrorists were counting on the cells in northern Lebanon and on the backing of some Sunni figures to achieve their objectives.
The jihadists want to ignite war between the country's Sunnis and Shiites, he said.
He also accused them of seeking to create a safe passage to the sea in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
They believe they can achieve that in Lebanon by linking the Syrian Qalamun mountains with Lebanon's northeastern town of Arsal and then Akkar district, the General told Le Figaro.
The army engaged in heavy clashes with the militants after they overran Arsal in August and took with them soldiers and policemen as hostages.
But the military does not have enough capabilities to crash the jihadists and rescue the captives.
Qahwaji said that his institution needs helicopter gunships to back the ground forces.
He told his interviewer that the army was able to equip the military's Puma helicopters with missiles to battle the jihadists but that soldiers needed more advanced weaponry.
The army chief stressed that the military differentiates between Syrian refugees who have escaped the war in their country and terrorists.
He defended Lebanese troops who were lately seen in a video assaulting suspects rounded up during raids on encampments for Syrian refugees in Arsal.
The army distanced itself from the video that circulated on social media last month. But Qahwaji said that the reaction of the soldiers is understandable given the torture practiced by the jihadists against the troops.
Three of the so-called Arsal hostages were executed in September and August – two of them were beheaded while one was shot dead.
The army is ready to investigate some incidents that have happened lately, Qahwaji said.