Beirut – The Lebanese army adopted on Thursday strict measures in Arsal as part of a security plan aimed at restoring stability in the northeastern border town and its outskirts.
The army set up checkpoints at the entrance of the town where it inspected the identification cards and vehicles of travelers in search of fugitives.
The army has been deployed in and around Arsal since the summer of 2014 after militants from the extremist al-Nusra Front and ISIS groups overran the town. Battles ensued as the army sought to retake the area from the militants, who retreated to the outskirts of the area.
Scores of soldiers and extremists were killed in the five-day unrest. The militants kidnapped a number of soldiers and servicemen in their retreat. Twenty soldiers were released in a prisoner swap deal in late 2015. The remaining nine hostages are still held by ISIS and their fate is unknown.
Since the 2014 battle, the army has carried out almost daily shelling on the outskirts of Arsal as it targets the activity of the militants.
In a related development, the Internal Security Forces announced the arrest of a suspected ISIS member in northern Lebanon. It identified him as a Lebanese national, who contacted ISIS members in Syria’s Raqqa city.
He had propagated the militant group on social media and facilitated the movement of foreigners seeking to join ISIS in Syria.
The suspect was also asked to carry out security attacks in Lebanon, but he instead requested that he head to Raqqa to join the group’s ranks. He persuaded other suspects to join him, said the security forces statement.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Syrians Hawwa al-Zohouri, 20, and Nour al-Husseki, 25, from the Syrian town of al-Qusayr were killed in a car bombing in Arsal.
A woman from the Karanby family and other Syrians were wounded in the attack. NNA said that the army has since launched an investigation in the incident.