Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanon’s security forces launched a large-scale crackdown in Tripoli on Tuesday in a bid to restore peace and stability to the northern city, which has been the scene of escalating sectarian violence this week.
The move is part of a government-approved plan to contain the spillover from the Syrian conflict, leading to the apprehension of at least 22 figures suspected of being involved in the violence.
Around 1,800 security personnel were deployed in Tripoli in the early hours of the morning, carrying out raids on the homes of key suspects and setting up checkpoints across the city.
The Syrian crisis has created a state of polarization between the city’s Sunnis—who mainly support the Syrian rebels—and Shi’ites, who are sympathetic to Syria’s Alawite president, Bashar Al-Assad.
Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, which has proven instrumental in pushing the mostly Islamist rebels back from the Lebanese border region, has deepened the sectarian rifts between the city’s main sects.
At least 27 people have been reported killed over the past three weeks in clashes between militants in the Sunni-majority Bab Al-Tabbaneh and the predominantly Shi’ite Jabal Mohsen districts.
Among those targeted by Lebanese security forces for their suspected involvement in violence are Alawites Rifaat Eid and Ali Eid and Sunni Islamist preacher Omar Bakri, all of whom remain at large, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s investigative military judge, Fadi Sawan, questioned Jamal Daftardar, a key figure in the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
Daftardar admitted to belonging to the terrorist group and to having fought alongside the group’s late leader, Majid Al-Majid, in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Daftardar was questioned at Beirut’s military hospital after sustaining severe injuries during his arrest in the Beqaa Valley on January 15.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a security source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Daftardar claimed to have been appointed by Majid to be in charge of Islamic Shari’a law issues in Lebanon.
He also claimed that Majid had appointed Naim Abbas—the reported mastermind of the twin bombings that targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut—as the new military leader of the group in Lebanon.
Daftardar is suspected of being responsible for car bombs that hit Hezbollah’s stronghold in a southern district of the Lebanese capital, killing civilians, and launching rockets into Israel.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades also claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut in November. The attack killed more than 20 people, including the Iranian cultural attaché.