Gunman kills 4 in attack on Tripoli security patrol

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Lebanon's Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan visits the scene where a militant attacked a security forces patrol on Monday night, in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli. (Reuters)
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A Lebanese Army investigator takes photos outside a building where clashes erupted between Lebanese troops and a a former member of the Islamic State group, who had engaged in an hours-long shootout with the security forces, in Tripoli, Lebanon. (AP)
Updated 04 June 2019

Gunman kills 4 in attack on Tripoli security patrol

  • Tripoli has prevailed because of coordination between the security and military forces
  • The US Embassy in Lebanon said that it “stands by the legitimate security institutions in their war on terror

BEIRUT: A lone gunman who killed an army officer and three Lebanese security personnel in Tripoli had been released from prison on terror charges in mid-2017, Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan said.

The “lone wolf” attacker, Abdul Rahman Mabsout, struck shortly before midnight on Monday, killing a Lebanese army officer and three Internal Security Forces (ISF) personnel.

Mabsout was known to security and judicial services in Lebanon. He had fought with the Daesh terror group in Syria and was arrested in Lebanon in early 2016 where he was imprisoned for 18 months before being released in mid-2017.

“Lone wolves are a new type of terrorism and security services are doing their best to prevent such attacks,” said Al-Hassan, who went to Tripoli after the incident.

According to Lebanon’s army command, the militant was riding a motorcycle when he opened fire on a Bank of Lebanon branch and an adjacent ISF post, killing one soldier and wounding several others.

He then moved to another area and threw a bomb at an ISF patrol before shooting and killing two security personnel and fleeing.

Security forces chased and exchanged gunshots with the terrorist, who barricaded himself in an apartment after forcing a woman occupant to flee. 

The man is believed to have killed himself by detonating an explosive belt when security forces raided the property, though earlier reports said he was killed by a grenade blast as security forces stormed the building.

“Tripoli has prevailed because of coordination between the security and military forces, and thanks to the Lebanese,” Al-Hassan told a press conference. 

The four men who died in the attacks were Lt. Hassan Farahat, 29, Pvt. Ibrahim Saleh, 21, Sgt. Johnny Khalil, 26, and Cpl. Yousef Faraj, 36.

Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab said the attack was likely to be part of a wider terrorist plot.

“However, there are still unanswered questions about the attacks,” he said.

Bou Saab linked the incident to benefit cuts imposed on retired soldiers in the 2019 budget. “The army is sacrificing its blood for the homeland and we hope everyone appreciates the value of these sacrifices,” he said.

MP Hikmat Deeb, from the Free Patriotic Movement bloc, said on Twitter that terrorism should not be tolerated, stressing that “amnesty for the killers of security personnel facilitates terrorism.”

“Lone wolves are a new type of terrorism and security services are doing their best to prevent such attacks.”

Raya Al-Hassan, Interior minister

In an interview with Arab News, former Lebanese MP Mustapha Allouch said: “I am surprised that this terrorist could be released from prison. He fought in the ranks of Daesh in Syria, but this incident should not be linked to Islamic detainees because some of them are oppressed.”

He said: “Someone may have encouraged Mabsout to carry out the attacks. Poverty and resentment may have been his motives. Or he may have found that the other world was better than his current life, so he did what he did. We do not know. We have to wait for investigations.”

Allouch described Tripoli as “the weakest link to carry out this attack. I do not think what happened is an accident.” 

Tripoli MP Mohammed Kabbara said the incident involved the “direct targeting of Tripoli.”

“Conspiracies want to drain it, distort its image and weaken it. What happened has serious implications, because the perpetrators are people who were deceived by one or more parties in the context of using Tripoli as a mailbox to send bloody messages.”

The US Embassy in Lebanon said that it “stands by the legitimate security institutions in their war on terror.”

More than 1,200 prisoners, including 700 Lebanese, are being held in Roumieh prison on terror-related charges. About 500 detainees have been accused of murder or attempted murder.

For years, families of detainees have been pressuring the Lebanese government to issue a general amnesty or speed up prisoners’ trials and ensure proper humanitarian conditions in the prison.

President Michel Aoun hailed “the lives of the martyrs of the army and ISF” after the Tripoli attack.

“Any tampering with security will receive a quick and decisive response,” he said. “What happened in Tripoli will not affect stability in the country.”

Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, who is in Saudi Arabia, called Al-Hassan, Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun and Director General of the ISF Maj. Gen. Imad Othman following terrorist attack.

According to his press office, Al-Hariri stressed that “all measures that protect the security of Tripoli and its people must be taken and the remnants of terrorism must be uprooted.”

Navy destroyer’s Beirut visit a ‘security reminder’: US envoy

Updated 16 min 46 sec ago

Navy destroyer’s Beirut visit a ‘security reminder’: US envoy

BEIRUT: The US Navy destroyer USS Ramage docked at the port of Beirut for 24 hours as a “security reminder,” according to Elizabeth Richard, the US ambassador to Lebanon.

“The US Navy is not far away, and Our ships were often near the Mediterranean, and will remain so,” the American envoy said.

Ricard and Vice Admiral James J. Malloy – the commander of the 5th Fleet – whose area of responsibility includes the waters of Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, hosted ‘an on-board reception for US and Lebanese officials.’

USS Ramage is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, named after Vice Admiral Lawson P. Ramage, a notable submarine commander and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. The ship specializes in destroying guided missiles launched from warships, aside from providing multiple offensive and defensive tasks.

Richard assured that “the security and stability in the East Mediterranean are of utmost importance to the United States and to Lebanon as well, and with regards to the issue of oil derivatives that concerns more than one state in the region, we hope that Lebanon joins in, as the issue of maritime security will soon acquire more importance.”

She assured that: “the presence of the USA in these waters is of common interest, and the presence of the American destroyer in Lebanon is a political message.”

Richard also said that partnership with Lebanon was not limited to military cooperation, and that the USA is “committed to help the Lebanese people through this period of economic hardship, and to supporting the Lebanese institutions that defend Lebanese sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, Admiral Malloy said during the reception that “our military relations with Lebanon transcends the issue of military hardware, and the Lebanese armed forces have set plans to improve its naval capabilities, and the USA will continue playing the primary role in supporting these efforts.”

Built in 1993, the USS Ramage was put into active service in 1995 with a crew of almost 300 officers and enlisted personnel. It is 154 meters long and 20 meters and could reach a top speed of 30 knots, or 56 kilometers per hour.