Gunfire rocks Beirut, Tripoli

Security incidents rocked Lebanon Saturday evening, with gunfire erupting in Beirut’s Kola neighborhood and the northern town of Tripoli. Earlier in the day armed men freed a man detained for the attack on Minister Faisal Karami’s convoy last month.


An explosion followed by heavy gunfire was heard late in the evening near West Beirut’s Kola roundabout, amid conflicting reports of the circumstances of the incident.


LBC television reported that unknown assailants drove by an Amal Movement office in the nearby Wata Mosetbeih neighborhood and threw either a grenade or a non-lethal flashbang near the center before opening fire.


Meanwhile, OTV reported that guards at the Amal Movement office fired back on the assailants after a bomb was lobbed at the center.


However, the Amal Movement denied to Al-Manar television that its office had been attacked.


The National News Agency reported that a stun grenade had been thrown in the Wata Mosetbeih area, adding that security forces deployed to the area following the gunfire to the area.


An eyewitness in Kola told NOW that the situation in the late evening was calm, but tense, adding that the heavy gunfire heard earlier in the night lasted for only a few minutes.


Meanwhile in Tripoli, heavy gunfire was heard at night in the city’s Qobbe neighborhood after armed men took to the streets of the Tripoli area and burned tires in protest over local man Ali Shaaban's "disappearance."


Earlier in the day, a group of armed men stormed a hospital in Tripoli and freed a man detained for attacking Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami’s motorcade convoy last month.


The assailants—who were wearing masks—forced their way into the Islamic Charity Hospital and threatened anyone who stood in their way, the National News Agency reported.


The report added that they disarmed the two Internal Security Forces members who were guarding Mohammad Youssef’s room before freeing the detainee.


Meanwhile, the hospital’s general manager Azzam Assoum held a press conference clarifying that “detainee Mohammad Youssef had been in intensive care” for wounds inflicted during the attack on Karami’s convoy.


LBC television reported that Youssef was later delivered to security agencies.

Youssef was detained for his alleged involvement in an incident which took place on January 18 when unknown assailants blew up one of Karami’s motorcade vehicles in Tripoli’s Al-Azmi neighborhood with a grenade and injured four of his bodyguards.


The NNA late on Saturday night quoted prominent Salafi cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafei as saying that he was the one who called Youssef’s relatives and urged them to deliver him to the army intelligence.


Rafei denounced the incident and said following a meeting held at Tripoli ISF commander Brigadier Bassam al-Ayyoubi’s office : “We stand by the ISF and we ask them to [prosecute] anyone who assaults citizens… and takes laws and regulations lightly.”


Overnight Friday, residents of Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods engaged in fighting which saw grenades and mortar shells explode through the two neighborhoods amid heavy gunfire.


Tripoli has repeatedly been the locus of sectarian conflict linked to the troubles in Syria between pro- and anti-Syrian regime gunmen from Sunni and Alawite groups, whose rival districts — Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, respectively — are divided by the main thoroughfare Syria Street.

The National News Agency reported that a stun grenade had been thrown in the Wata Mosetbeih area.