Lebanese govt takes ‘48-hour breather’ after Mount Lebanon killings

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri was speaking about the incident in Mount Lebanon. (File/Reuters)
Updated 02 July 2019

Lebanese govt takes ‘48-hour breather’ after Mount Lebanon killings

  • The quorum of the Cabinet’s session was achieved, but we decided to take a breath, Hariri says

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday postponed a Cabinet meeting for 48 hours “to take a breath” after the killing of two members of Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Saleh Al-Gharib’s entourage at Mount Lebanon on Sunday.

The decision to delay the session in order to allow tensions to calm, came as head of the Lebanese General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, confirmed the start of extradition proceedings of a suspect arrested over the attack, in which two other people were also wounded.

It had been expected that Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting would be attended by Al-Gharib and ministers of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), along with ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), led by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

It was Bassil’s visit to the western Shahhar region that sparked protests by supporters of the PSP — which is headed by Walid Jumblatt — who clashed with the convoy of Al-Gharib, who is loyal to the Lebanese Democratic Party, fronted by Talal Arslan, an ally of Bassil and Jumblatt’s rival.

Speaking during a press conference Hariri said: “The quorum of the Cabinet’s session was achieved, but we decided to take a breath. There is a problem in the country, and we need 48 hours to vent the tension, so I decided to postpone the session. I am presiding over a government of national unity, not a national conflict.”

The premier added: “Security is a red line and all measures will be taken to hold accountable the perpetrators. Whoever committed the crime will be taken to court, which will take its course and its decision will be critical.”

He said the government was “doing great” and offered condolences to the families of the victims of the Mount Lebanon incident saying he hoped “the entire country would overcome this rift.”

Hariri held a meeting in his office with PSP ministers Akram Chehayeb and Wael Abou Faour, who were later joined by Al-Gharib. Also present was security chief Ibrahim, who was assigned to mediate and ease tensions.

Al-Gharib had accused the PSP of trying to assassinate him by shooting at his convoy and called for the case to be referred to the Judicial Council which examines crimes against state security.

However, Hariri seemed unconvinced, pointing out that officials were working to calm the situation and that the leaders of the PSP and the Lebanese Democratic Party, Jumblatt and Arslan were open to solutions and that no one wanted conflict in the country. He also called for a reduction in political speeches.


Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

HIGHLIGHT

Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 

 

Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.