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A view of the east side of the west wing at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY/OLBA). Three Airbus A321-200s from the Lebanese national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA), can be seen. Gulf News archives Image Credit:

Beirut: Two suspects working at the Rafik Hariri International Airport were arrested allegedly for contacting “terrorist groups”. The two Lebanese nationals were apparently picked up during a random security check although few details emerged about the suspects’ relations to any militant groups.

According to the Minister of Transportation, Gazi Zoaiter, the security situation is under control.

Zoaiter sought to downplay the weekend arrests. “The arrest of the two employees proves that the security situation at the vital facility is not troubling,” he declared to Al Safir, calling for steps that could further tighten security at the Rafik Hariri International Airport.

Zoaiter, a controversial figure who previously acknowledged that the airport facility required tens of millions of dollars to upgrade security along its perimeter, emphasised that “despite all the negative rumours from some sides lately, I assure that the situation at the airport is completely under control.”

His comments were directed at the Minister of the Interior, Nouhad Al Machnouq, who claimed that he knew nothing of the arrests though he had clamoured from London a few weeks ago that security gaps existed and that these were both “dangerous and grave” and, even worse, may lead to a repeat of the security breach at Sharm Al Shaikh Airport that led to the explosion on a Russian plane in October 2015.

Al Machnouq vowed to address these gaps once he returned to Lebanon and identified two priorities — build a fence around the airport and buy advanced equipment to screen luggage — though what was unclear was the delay by the Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Al Khalil, to allocate $10 million (Dh36.72 million) for the work.

Like everything else in Lebanon, mundane administrative decisions were thrown left to the Cabinet, with various parties and political factions arguing over details. On Monday, Zoaiter called on the Cabinet to release the much-needed funds to build the perimeter fence and purchase necessary scanners.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army Intelligence accelerated its investigation to uncover which extremist group the two arrested employees had been involved with though no details were released.