Wadi Khaled, Clashes between residents and security forces

(The Daily Star, November 8, 2010)

Calm reigned in the northern border town of Wadi Khaled Sunday after four of the town’s residents were shot by a joint force from the border police.

Angry crowds burned the old General Security headquarters in the border town of Bqaiya over the weekend after Mohammad Ahmad and Fadlallah Shehab were shot dead at midnight Friday.

A security source told The Daily Star that the border police shot in the direction of Ahmad and Shehab after the two refused to answer calls from the police to stop the motorcycle they were riding.

The border police comprises forces from the Lebanese Army, the Internal Security Forces, General Security and the Customs Department.

The border police fired at the crowd after residents threw rocks at their direction, injuring Shehab Walid Ezzo and Assad al-Oueissi, who later died from their wounds, raising the number of casualties to four.

Akkar MPs Moueen al-Merhabi and Khaled Daher mediated contacts between the town’s residents and the Lebanese Army in a bid to contain tensions and anger that broke out after the incidents.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri held a series of contacts with the army and the ISF’s command over the weekend to follow up on the situation and its repercussions after tensions rose between Wadi Khaled’s residents and security forces.

Hariri called on all parties to maintain calm and await the outcome of investigations to reveal the truth behind the incident as he urged residents to cooperate with security forces to prevent groups from exploiting the incident to instigate schism between the Lebanese Army and security institutions.

“The citizens of Wadi Khaled are our people and brothers, and they are aware that the Lebanese Army is our army, and its soldiers are their children and our children,” he said. “I call on everybody to wait for the outcome of investigations by the Lebanese judiciary, the qualified side to implement justice,” said Hariri.

He dispatched his cousin and Future Movement Secretary General Ahmad Hariri to Wadi Khaled to pay condolences.

Meanwhile, Akkar lawmakers gathered in Wadi Khaled over the weekend to condemn the incident, urging for prompt investigations into the shooting.

A statement released following the meeting said the MPs called on the government and the Lebanese Army command to re-define the joint security force’s mission and restrict its mission to the control of arms smuggling and human trafficking in line with Resolution 1701.

The attendees also demanded that the joint security force restrict its patrols to the border and withdraw its members from the town.

“The attendees call on security and military forces to implement law equally on all Lebanese territories without distinction between regions, knowing that Wadi Khaled residents have been suffering from the misconduct of the joint security force on many levels,” the statement said. “We will no longer accept any arbitrary implementation of the law at the expense of our people in Wadi Khaled who were and remain supportive of the Lebanese state and its institutions particularly the Lebanese Army,” it added.