BEIRUT: Masked men closed several Beirut roads with burning tires late Monday after the arrest of a suspect in an earlier attack on Al-Jadeed television station in which a group of gunmen set fire to its entrance and shot at the building.
Groups of men clashed with the Army and destroyed cars and set tires on fire on Bshara al-Khoury Avenue near Downtown Beirut, with dark smoke rising into the night sky and the sounds of gunshots echoing across the heart of the capital.
The gunmen were said to be protesting the arrest of Wissam Alaaeddine, who was apprehended in the attack on the premises of Al-Jadeed TV.
The political affiliation of Alaaeddine was not immediately known, although several political groups, including the Amal Movement denied any connection to him.
Gunmen in a car fired shots at the Concorde Center in Verdun, which houses the Al-Akhbar newspaper, Al-Jadeed reported.
Angry men also closed roads with burning tires in the Beirut neighborhoods of Ring, Hawd al-Wilaya, Aisha Bakkar and Hamra, witnessess said.
Also, the Army made a series of arrests in the Bshara Khoury and Verdun areas Monday night, according to media reports.
Security footage from Al-Jadeed TV in Moseitbeh showed several masked men entering the area outside Al-Jadeed with tires and fuel canisters.
Liquid was poured over the cement entrance area and around the tires and set ablaze in a massive fireball that schorched some of the attackers.
The station reported that the attackers also fired shots at the building, damaging its interior.
Security footage from the station showed one of the likely attackers fleeing down the street with one of his feet on fire. Alaaeddine was apprehended after the incident by the guards of the Progressive Socialist Party Headquarters nearby.
The station’s coverage showed Alaaeddine being roughed up by people outside Al-Jadeed before being handed over to the Internal Security Forces and Army Information Branch.
President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Speaker Nabih Berri and politicians from across the spectrum contacted Al-Jadeed to voice their concern over the attack.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, who announced this week that the Lebanese Army and police are set to begin in July a monthlong crackdown across Lebanon with the aim of arresting people with outstanding warrants and bolstering security, condemned the attack on Al-Jadeed, saying the perpetrators would not enjoy political cover. “This street where the station is was never protected by security forces; they didn’t give importance to the fact that there is a station of significance on the street,” Maryam al-Bassam Fadlallah, director of news programs at New TV, said in an interview with a local television station.
New TV hosted an interview Sunday with controversial Sidon Shekih Ahmad Assir, who made threats against Berri and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah which many considered sectarian attacks. Assir’s remarks prompted the channel to apologize for the interview being aired.
Lebanon has witnessed a string of security incidents in recent months, including fighting in the Beirut neighborhood of Tariq al-Jdeideh and gunbattles in the northern city of Tripoli. Fighting has also broken out at two of the country’s Palestinian refugee camps.
Concerns have been mounting that Lebanon could see a spillover of violence from neighboring Syria, which has been reeling from 15-month uprising against President Bashar Assad’s government.