Lebanese President Michel Aoun says security will be restored in the country’s southern province of Mount Lebanon, a day after two bodyguards of the minister of state for refugee affairs lost their lives and another sustained critical wounds when gunmen opened fire on his convoy and triggered armed clashes.
“We have taken the decision to restore security in Aley and arrest all those who were involved in the shooting incidents on Sunday,” Aoun stated following an emergency meeting of the Higher Defense Council at Baabda Palace.
Aoun also called upon security agencies to continue their investigations into the clashes in a bid to identify those behind the killing of Saleh Gharib’s bodyguards.
Gharib told official National New Agency in a telephone call that he was on his way in the area of Qabr Chamoun on Sunday afternoon, when gunmen shot at his motorcade.
Sources close to the Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP) told private LBCI television network that “what happened in Aley was an armed ambush to assassinate [Foreign] Minister Gebran Bassil.”
They added that the shooters were members of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), led by veteran Druz politician Walid Jumblatt, who did not recognize that the convoy belonged to Gharib.
PSP supporters, however, claimed that Gharib’s convoy “forced its way as some young men were removing burning tires in the al-Shahhar area and the bodyguards opened fire.”
Local al-Jadeed television network reported that Bassil had planned to head to the town of Kfar Matta to meet with a Druze spiritual leader. He, however, decided to call off the visit, citing tensions in the region. Jumblatt’s convoy was not in Qabr Chamoun, when Gharib’s motorcade came under attack.
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab called for calm at the time, telling the LBC network that the army had placed a large number of forces in the area.
Akram Chehayeb, a senior PSP official and minister of education, also urged calm, saying, “What happened is the result of poor judgment by some officials and is a recipe for strife on the Mountain.”
Jumblatt is apparently a long-time critic of Bassil’s role in the Lebanese cabinet.