BAALBECK, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army conducted large-scale raids in east Lebanon’s Baalbeck Sunday in search of high-profile fugitives, leading to clashes between security forces and members of the powerful local Al-Wehbi family, security sources told The Daily Star.
The Army conducted raids across the Sharawneh neighborhood of Baalbeck in search members of the Wehbi family believed to be connected to the recent murder of Lamis Hasan Nakkoush. The young girl, born in 2008, was killed by a stray bullet in front of her house a few minutes before iftar on May 30.
The suspect, identified by security forces at the time as Aa.W. of the Wehbe family, and the victim’s brother reportedly exchanged words before the former opened fire, hitting Nakkoush in the back of her head.
The sources said that during the sweep Sunday, patrols met opposition from a group of suspects who opened fire on the Army in order to try and escape.
Dozens of members of the Wehbi family then gathered near an Army checkpoint at the neighborhood’s entrance and began to throw rocks at security forces. The Army worked to disperse the crowd.
However, the sources said that after iftar, dozens of the young men blocked roads with burning tires after news broke that the Army had arrested Mohammed Shwkat Wehbi and Hassanein Talal Wehbi.
The former was taken to a nearby military barracks and investigations reveled that he had several pending arrest warrants against him while Hassanein was released.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Tanios Wehbi condemned the attacks on the Army by some members of his family and said that they fully submit to the laws and rules of the country.
“This is a totally unacceptable act,” Tanios Wahbi said as he called for calm and for the Army to maintain security and stability in the city. He also condemned the closing of roads with burning tires as he said it “did not serve the interests of the family.”
During the raids, security forces found a Grand Cherokee 4x4 used in recent illegal operations. A search of the vehicle found a number of light weapons, RPG launchers and several boxes of ammunition.
The area of Baalbeck has long suffered poor security, rampant violence and warring clan fighting. Kidnappings, killings, car theft and arms and drug trafficking are common. A previous security plan implemented in 2014 was described as a failure, given its inability to reduce the incidence of such events.
Ministers and President Michel Aoun have vowed to take action to curb lawlessness in the area. "Security forces were given the order to be firm in enforcing the law," Aoun told a delegation from the city earlier this month.