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Lebanon chaos looms over Meqdad threat

Kidnappings illustrate return of feudalist state akin to civil war era

Image Credit: REUTERS
Relatives of the 11 Lebanese Shi’ite pilgrims who were abducted in Syria burn tyres and block the main road leading to Beirutairport on Wednesday. An air strike on the northern Syrian town of Azaz on Wednesday wounded seven Lebanese hostagesbeing held there, and four others are still missing, a rebel commander said.
Gulf News

Beirut: Although Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri denied that a Saudi national was kidnapped on Wednesday evening in Lebanon — allegedly in retaliation for the abduction of Hassan Meqdad in Damascus by elements reporting to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — Riyadh ordered its citizens to leave the country as soon as possible. Asiri, a former top-ranking security expert, requested Saudis in Lebanon to leave because “the threats have become open.”Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE similarly urged their nationals to leave immediately, amid threats by members of the BekaahValley-based Meqdad clan. In the chaos that rocked the city on Wednesday night, Meqdad clansmen kidnapped an undetermined number of Syrians, along with a Turkish national who was displayed on the pro-Iran Al Mayadeen Television network.

The Meqdad clan’s actions, complete with face-masks and shoulder-carried heavy machine-guns, stood as a brazen illustration of the return of feudalism decades after what most Lebanese hoped was the end of their inconclusive civil war between 1975 and 1990. Importantly, several emotional Meqdad family members blasted on television screens that they held Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia responsible for the kidnapping of Hassan Meqdad, allegedly because of the support Doha, Ankara and Riyadh extended to the FSA.

Maher Meqdad, a spokesperson for the Shi`ah clan, further held the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Najib Miqati responsible for not securing the release of their relative, although he repeated that he would not attack any Saudis or Qataris and that the clan’s problem was with the FSA.

According to a Wednesday broadcast on the Al Arabiya television network, the FSA arrested Hassan Meqdad, who crossed into Syria as part of a 1,500-member Hezballah-led group to be deployed to Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. Hezballah denied that Hassan was affiliated with the movement although Maher Meqdad claimed that he could field an “armed wing,” and that his clan had taken matters into its own hands as the Lebanese government proved incapable of addressing their concerns. “We will do it ourselves, and we have what you can call a regulated army to do the job,” he insisted, preferring to apply the principle of “eye for an eye.”

Yesterday morning, Maher Meqdad told the AlNashra news website that he condemned all of the threats against Saudis and Qataris in Lebanon, insisting that “the military wing of the family decided to choose its targets and work more carefully after the targets were picked randomly on the first day.” It was worth noting that Meqdad launched various threats on Wednesday, informing all Lebanese that clan militiamen could kidnap at will throughout the country, and that everyone would be surprised by its reach. “We can reach Aley, Tripoli, and Iqlim Al Kharroub,” shouted an unidentified masked gunman on New TV [Al-Jadid] surrounded by anumber of other gunmen, none of whom cautioned the emotionally challenged militiaman.

Once again, Beirut was confronted with the repercussions of developments in neighbouring Syria, with clear indications that no one could prevent spillover effects of the chaos next door. With frequent burning of tires to close main arteries throughout the city, repeated obstructions of traffic to and from Beirut’s sole international airport, assorted lawlessness across the country, many Lebanese were on the edge. Cancellations for Eid Al Fitr celebrations started in earnest, with many Gulf citizens altering their holiday plans. On Wednesday, an Air France plane was diverted to Larnaca, Cyprus, ironically after making a stopover for fuel in the Syrian capital Damascus. Gulf airliners that flew into Beirut were bound to leave at capacity.