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Lebanon: Beqaa Witnesses Wave of Kidnappings Amid Failure to Control Security

Lebanon: Beqaa Witnesses Wave of Kidnappings Amid Failure to Control Security

Sunday, 22 September, 2019 - 10:00
Lebanese soldiers patrol a street at the entrance of the border town of Arsal, in eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. (Reuters)

Recent security developments in Lebanon's Beqaa have highlighted the failure of a security plan in the area after around six months of relative calm.

The province of Baalbek-Hermel has seen over the past three weeks looting and murder operations and three kidnappings for ransom.

This has led political movements to call on the state to re-impose its control over the area and to put an end to the spread of illegal weapons.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Strong Republic parliamentary bloc MP Antoine Habshi said that the recent security events “showed that the State was outside this region and that security plans are not useful.”

“The State is required to stop the spread of illegal weapons,” he noted.

On August 24, unidentified gunmen kidnapped Lebanese Joseph Hannoush, while he was in western Baalbek, and transferred him through illegal crossings to the Syrian interior. His fate is still unknown.

Last week, Hannoush’s family received a call from one of the kidnappers, who went to the area of Tal al-Abyad, one of the districts of Baalbek, to call them and demand a $500,000 ransom for their son’s release. The family and friends of Hannoush held several sit-ins calling for the State’s help, but the case has seen no progress so far.

According to exclusive information available to Asharq Al-Awsat, Syrian security services raided on Friday Syrian villages on the border with Lebanon in search of Hannoush and failed to liberate the man following clashes with the kidnappers who managed to escape.

Last week, Murhaf al-Akhras, the son of Syrian businessman Tarif al-Akhras, was kidnapped between Aley and Chtaura in Mount Lebanon. His family received a call from the kidnappers demanding a $2 million ransom before he was released last Thursday, without confirming whether the ransom was paid or not.

Operations of theft, looting and smuggling of cars through illegal crossings and selling them inside Syria have been active recently.

A Lebanese army intelligence patrol last month captured, on one of the illegal crossings, a professional gang led by a Syrian woman, who rented cars with fake IDs and transported them to Syria to sell them there.

Commenting on the situation, a member of the Baalbek-Hermel parliamentary bloc, MP Ibrahim al-Moussawi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the security situation was a priority for the Baalbek-Hermel MPs and the Hezbollah leadership.

“There is no security without development and no development without security,” he said, noting that the lack of resources, livelihoods, and services would drive some people towards certain directions” outside the law.

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