Security

New Baalbek, Hermel security plan in place

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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The Lebanese Armed Forces on June 17th started deploying in the Baalbek-Hermel area as part of a new plan to establish full security and clamp down on criminal activities. [Photo courtesy of Lebanese Army Command Directorate of Guidance]

Lebanese forces are implementing a new security plan in the Baalbek-Hermel area of the northern Bekaa Valley, which has been plagued in recent months with instability and high levels of criminal activity.

Over the past year, the security situation in this area has deteriorated, with regular reports of armed clashes, gunfire, car theft, drug manufacture and trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom, local officials said.

The plan comes in response to the worsening situation, they said, and in response to the long-standing demand of residents to put an end to the chaos.

The security situation in the northern Bekaa Valley has reached "unprecedented levels of decay and deterioration", al-Joumhouria newspaper reported June 20th, quoting high-ranking military sources.

A qualitative military operation is required, as conventional security plans have failed to adequately address the situation, they said.

The army will support residents of the northern Bekaa Valley "in order to achieve full security and to establish permanent regular conditions of normal life", Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun said last week.

Three-point plan

According to senior military sources, the new security plan "will not have a specific time limit", said Michel Nasr, Addiyar newspaper’s security editor.

Wanted persons will be arrested in "sudden raids based on accurate surveillance and information", he told Al-Mashareq.

The three-point plan, which was presented during the monthly security meeting between the Army Commander and the leaders of the security services, aims to restore security and stability in the area, he said.

It seeks to establish close co-operation between the security services; quietly sustain and follow-up on security work; and carry out quality operations targeting key figures wanted for major criminal operations, he said.

The decision was taken in order to "enhance social security" and takes into account local tribes, whose leaders have demonstrated their co-operation with Lebanese forces on the issue of outlaws, Nasr said.

The plan "has begun to bear fruit, leading to the arrest of one of the most important heads of car theft networks in the area of al-Qasr-Hermel", he said.

Locals demand security

The new plan is "an urgent demand of the people", Baalbek-Hermel governor Bashir Khodr told Al-Mashareq.

The security plan will hopefully be followed by a development plan, Khodr said, "because security and development are two sides of one coin".

The plan has met with popular support due to the caution exercised by the army in safeguarding civilian lives during raids, and the army's willingness to co-operate with civilians in order to end the chaos, he said.

The plan "makes the people feel at ease and dispels the daily fear that we experience of random gunfire, car theft, theft of all kinds and kidnapping", Baalbek resident Hussein Yaghi told Al-Mashareq.

"We look forward to a sustainable plan that punishes the criminal in court," said Yaghi, who founded an organisation called Safe Side to restore Baalbek's reputation and facilitate the return of tourists.

The new security plan is "good and necessary", security expert and retired Lebanese military officer Brig. Gen. Naji Malaeb told Al-Mashareq.

"The plan also must be accompanied by full control of the army over the Lebanese-Syrian border in order to prevent wanted persons from fleeing to Syria," he said.

Political and administrative reforms "that will pave the way for security and stability in accordance with the laws of the state" also are of key importance, Malaeb added.

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