Lebanese army kills terror cell ‘ringleader’ in raid that left 4 soldiers dead

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Mourners attend the funeral of Lebanese soldiers who were killed in the northern city of Tripoli on Monday. (AFP)
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Mourners attend the funeral of four Lebanese soldiers who were killed in the northern city of Tripoli on September 14, 2020. The Lebanese army said today that four of its troops were killed while attempting to arrest a suspected "terrorist" at his north Lebanon home. (AFP)
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Updated 15 September 2020

Lebanese army kills terror cell ‘ringleader’ in raid that left 4 soldiers dead

  • French deadline for forming new Lebanese govt extended 48 hours to promote convergence of views

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army on Monday killed what it described as the “ringleader of a terrorist cell” during a raid on a house in a town near Tripoli which also left four soldiers dead.

Khaled Al-Talawi died after a force from the Military Intelligence Directorate closed in on an apartment where he had been hiding in Beddawi, northern Lebanon.

Sgt. Louay Melhem, and soldiers Charbel Jebili, Anthony Takla, and Nihad Mustafa were killed when the militant threw a hand grenade and fired at their patrol before fleeing the scene with three other people. Al-Talawi was later killed in the Zgharta district after he shot at soldiers. Units stopped another fugitive and chased two others.

Al-Talawi had been on the run from authorities after his car was used by armed men during the killing of three young guards in the town of Kaftoun on Aug. 21. The militants were part of a terrorist cell, led by Al-Talawi, linked to Daesh.

Since the attack, security services have carried out a series of raids, including one on the Beddawi Palestinian refugee camp, and Syrian refugee camps in the north.

Lebanese Army Command revealed that the cell’s members “had received military training, collected weapons and ammunition, which were seized, and carried out several thefts to finance their activities.”

Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, Joseph Aoun, briefed President Michel Aoun on the military operation in a phone call.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron’s deadline for Lebanese parties to form a new government of specialists and nonpolitical ministers has expired with as yet, no solution.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib was unable to prepare a list of names following claims from the Amal Movement, Hezbollah, and the Free Patriotic Movement that he had not consulted with them.

After meeting President Aoun on Monday, Adib said he had visited the Presidential Palace “for further consultations,” and that over the next two days “we hope for the best.”

FASTFACTS

• Khaled Al-Talawi had been on the run from authorities after his car was used by armed men during the killing of three young guards in the town of Kaftoun on Aug. 21.

• The militants were part of a terrorist cell, led by Al-Talawi, linked to Daesh.

The French initiative, launched by Macron in Beirut two weeks ago, provided for the speedy formation of a government of specialists to implement the necessary reforms required to lift the country out of its severe economic crisis.

Macron intervened on Sunday night in an attempt to resolve a dispute over the finance portfolio that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had insisted be allocated to a Shiite proposed by him.

“The (French) president is pressuring Lebanese politicians to fulfill their promises to form a new government this week and to pull the country out of its worst crisis since the civil war that took place between 1975 and 1990,” the French president’s office said on Sunday. “President Macron continues his contacts with various political actors in Lebanon.”

When Macron visited Beirut on Sept. 1, the Lebanese leadership promised to form a government of specialists without party loyalties within two weeks to tackle an economic meltdown made worse by the devastating explosion at Beirut port on Aug. 4.

On Monday, it was announced that Aoun had started meetings with “heads or representatives of the parliamentary blocs to promote a convergence of views on government developments.”

Mohanad Hage Ali, resident researcher at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told Arab News: “It’s a new French 48-hour deadline that was given to the Lebanese parties after the expiration of the two-week deadline to come up with a formula agreed upon by all.”

Ali said: “The Amal Movement, Hezbollah, and the Free Patriotic Movement feel that the government rug has been pulled from under their feet. They are trying to position themselves in the middle. They refuse to participate in the government, but they cooperate with it.

“This is because they know that stopping state subsidies on fuel will soon come in light of the sharp drop in hard currency reserves, and therefore they do not want the street to explode in their face,” he added.

Leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gebran Bassil, received a phone call from Macron and another from Adib. He said on Sunday that the movement’s participation in the government was “not a condition for its support,” adding that “the constitution is clear that a ministry is not devoted to a sect.”

After receiving a similar call from Macron, Berri’s office said: “The problem is not with the French, the problem is internal. We informed the prime minister-designate of our unwillingness to participate in the government on the basis that he had laid, and we informed him of our readiness to cooperate to the fullest extent in all that is necessary to stabilize Lebanon and its finances, undertake reforms, and save its economy.”

Ali said: “The three opposing parties know that the age of this new government will not be later than the coming new year, awaiting the results of the American presidential elections, and that this government will not be able to propose solutions to the big problems despite the competencies of those who will be chosen for ministerial portfolios.

“On the other hand, these parties fear that this government will obtain external support to implement reforms that they will not play a role in formulating if they remain outside it.

“What the three parties will do within 48 hours is to negotiate half the nomination, meaning that the parties express their opinion on the names proposed by Adib only without undermining the formation,” Ali added.

 


Turkey-backed fighters retaliate against Syria-allied troops

Updated 15 min 58 sec ago

Turkey-backed fighters retaliate against Syria-allied troops

  • Renewed violence has undermined an already shaky cease-fire in place since March

BEIRUT: Syrian opposition groups lobbed hundreds of missiles and artillery rockets at government posts in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, in retaliation for a deadly attack that killed dozens of their fighters a day earlier.
The renewed violence has undermined an already shaky cease-fire in place since March that aimed to quell military operations and government troop advances in the overcrowded rebel enclave.
The Turkey-backed groups, operating under the umbrella of the National Front for Liberation, fired hundreds of artillery rounds and missiles since late Monday at government posts in territories adjacent to areas they control in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
A spokesman for the NFL, Naji Al-Mustafa, said the rebel’s military retaliation targeted and killed Russian officers in southern Idlib, as well as Syrian soldiers working in the area.
The report could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russia or Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded hundreds of projectiles lobbed by opposition fighters at nearly 20 government posts in different locations in southern Idlib, western Aleppo and the coastal province of Latakia. The Observatory said there were casualties but had no details.
Monday’s strike was the deadliest in Idlib since the Turkish-Russian-brokered truce there came into effect in March, raising fears that the truce could further fray. Some 1 million people were displaced by the last offensive inside the already packed enclave, home to over 3 million.
The airstrike on a rebel training camp near the border with Turkey killed more than 50 Turkish-backed fighters, according to one opposition spokesman, and wounded nearly as many, in one of the heaviest blows to the opposition’s strongest groups. The Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, put the toll at 78 fighters dead and nearly 90 wounded.
The camp, operated by Faylaq Al-Sham, an NFL faction, was hosting training sessions for new recruits. The NFL said a “large number” of fighters were killed, but declined to give details. It vowed retaliation and blamed Russia for the attack.
US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey said the escalation in Idlib in violation of the March cease-fire deal is “dangerous” and threatens to prolong the conflict and deepen the Syrian people’s suffering. Jeffrey said the UN-led political process is the only way to peace and stability in Syria.
“By continuing their quest for a military victory, the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are threatening the stability of the surrounding region,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “It is time for the Assad regime and its allies to end their needless, brutal war against the Syrian people.”
Russia and Turkey, although they support opposite sides in Syria’s nine-year conflict, have worked together to maintain a cease-fire in the last enclave of Syria’s rebels. But the attack comes as relations between the two countries have shown signs of strain over Turkey’s increased military involvement in a region stretching from Syria to the Caucasus and the Mediterranean.