Mufti Qabbani Urges Lebanese to 'Wake Up,' Warns against Sunni-Shiite Strife

42 Killed and 500 Wounded in Two Explosions at Tripoli Mosques




42 Killed and 500 Wounded in Two Explosions at Tripoli Mosques

W460

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  • The death toll from twin car bombings Friday in the northern port city of Tripoli rose to 42, a security source said, in the bloodiest attack since the 1975-1990 civil war.

    "The death toll has risen to 42 in Tripoli," the source told Agence France Presse.

    The Lebanese Red Cross said earlier there were at least 29 dead, and 500 wounded, with director Georges Kettaneh saying many of those injured were in serious condition with burns and head wounds.

    Two explosions took place as worshipers were filing out after weekly prayers.

    The first blast rocked the city center near the home of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, although his office said he was not in Tripoli at the time.

    The second struck near the port of the restive city, close to the home of former Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, a security source said.

    Local television channels aired footage of the dead, of buildings with their fronts blown in and vehicles ablaze, as bystanders rushed to help the wounded.

    Tripoli has been marred by deadly violence between Sunnis, who support the armed uprising in neighboring Syria, and Alawites who support President Bashar Assad.

    The explosions come a week after a suicide car bombing killed 27 people in a Beirut Hizbullah stronghold.

    On Wednesday, army chief General Jean Qahwaji said his forces were fighting a "total war" against terrorism whose aim is "to provoke sectarian strife" in the country.

    He said the army had been pursuing a "terrorist cell that prepares car bombs and sends them to residential neighborhoods."

    He said "the gravity... lies in the fact that this cell is not targeting any one region or community in particular, but that it aims to provoke sectarian strife by targeting different regions," said Qahwaji.

    A Lebanese and two Palestinians suspected of preparing a car bomb attack were arrested days after the latest blast in Beirut, the General Security agency said.

    They were accused of planning to plant a car laden with 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of explosives in the Naameh area, also in southern Beirut, the agency added.

    Ghosn Warns of 'Series' of Car Bombings, Urges National Unity

    W460

    Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn on Friday noted that the deadly twin blasts that targeted the northern city of Tripoli were aimed at “inciting strife among all the Lebanese,” warning of a “a series of terrorist car bombings.”

    "Let us close ranks as only national unity can act as a bulwark in the face of what's happening. We are at a very dangerous crossroads and let's put our disputes aside,” Ghosn said in a phone interview with LBCI television.

    “The Higher Defense Council performed its duties and warned the Lebanese of the current situation and of the spread of sedition from one region into another. It also warned them that the hand of terror might strike anywhere and of the attacks on our southern border,” Ghosn added.

    He warned the Lebanese that "there is a series of terrorist bombings through cars that will move from certain locations and strike anywhere."

    "We are heading towards destruction, fire and a deep abyss and everyone must show awareness to thwart strife,” the minister cautioned.

    He stressed that “terrorism acts upon orders and it does not belong to any sect, religion or affiliation,” adding that terrorism is “blind and can strike anywhere.”

    Ghosn also called for “cooperation with the army and security forces because only this cooperation can save the country.”

    Earlier on Friday, dozens of people were killed or wounded in twin bombings that targeted two mosques in Tripoli.

    The attacks come eight days after 27 people were killed and around 300 wounded in car bombing that rocked the Beirut southern suburb of Ruwais, a Hizbullah bastion.

    Rifi: We're Still at Beginning of Storm, Those Who Wage Jihad Must Expect

    W460

    Former Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said the deadly twin bombings that hit Tripoli on Friday are “a chance for us, as Lebanese, to shoulder our responsibilities in protecting our people, whether in Dahieh, Tripoli or anywhere else.”

    “I had warned all officials seven months ago that Lebanon had entered the storm, and unfortunately every party engaged in a scheme until things reached this extent,” Rifi said in a phone interview with LBCI television.

    Earlier on Friday, scores of people were killed or wounded in twin bombings that targeted two mosques in Tripoli, one near the apartment of Rifi who, according to media reports, was lightly wounded in the hand.

    The attacks come eight days after 27 people were killed and around 300 wounded in a car bombing that rocked the Beirut southern suburb of Ruwais, a Hizbullah bastion.

    “We are still at the beginning of the storm and I warn again that we must think how to protect the country from the storm that has become very dangerous,” Rifi added.

    When asked on what he based his warning to officials seven months ago, Rifi said: “It was based on information and we are security experts.”

    “Those who wage jihad in a certain place must expect counter-jihad. Every action has a reaction,” the ex-ISF chief added.

    “We tell the Lebanese and all officials that the threats will target everyone … We must all realize the presence of these threats and no one should rejoice for the death of the other as danger will target everyone. I call on officials to realize the threats that we have brought to the country and to exert efforts to fend them off,” Rifi, who hails from Tripoli, said.

    Tripoli Figures Urge Intensive Security Measures, Reject Vigilante Groups

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    Tripoli's politicians and dignitaries on Friday said they reject to entrust vigilante groups with the security of their city in the wake of twin bombings that left more than 40 people dead and 600 others wounded, urging state authorities to “intensify security measures.”

    “The conferees urge the city's residents to show patience, steadfastness and solidarity in order to heal the wounds. We also urge them to cooperate with all security forces to guarantee the security of their city,” said a statement recited by MP Mohammed Kabbara following an emergency meeting at this residence.

    “The conferees want to draw the attention of their people to the fact that the treacherous hand that is striving to import the region's blaze into Lebanon is also promoting the schemes of vigilante groups which will lead to militias and civil wars,” the statement added.

    Tripoli's dignitaries called on security forces to perform their role in a “firm manner in order to preserve security and pursue the culprits,” urging residents to “embrace the state.”

    They also called for facilitating the formation of a cabinet that can “provide stability and security for people."

    “Those who killed thousands in Syria are the same parties that are trying to drag Lebanon into strife,” the statement said.

    “Tripoli's residents enjoy full awareness and they have no other choice but the state, but we urge preemptive measures as everyone had expected bombings similar to the Ruwais blast,” it added.

    Answering a reporter's question, Kabbara said the Internal Security Forces must be “reinforced and given security equipment to detect explosives in the vein of what's happening in the other regions.”

    “The hand of terror and crime does not belong to any sect or religion and all regions must be vigilant,” he said.

    Kabbara played down reports of a deployment by gunmen across the city in the wake of the blasts, describing them as a “spontaneous reaction” and stressing that the only refuge is the state.

    For his part, State Minister Ahmed Karami said "Tripoli's residents reject to entrust vigilante groups with their security and a new cabinet must formed as the caretaker cabinet cannot protect citizens in a proper manner."

    Later on Friday, al-Mustaqbal movement issued a statement urging Tripoli's residents to "exercise calm and cooperate with the legitimate security forces, who remain the only and last sanctuary for Lebanon and the Lebanese."

    It urged them "not to heed rumors seeking to capitalize on these criminal bombings to consolidate the idea of vigilante groups, which must be rejected by all the Lebanese at all times."

    Mufti Qabbani Urges Lebanese to 'Wake Up,' Warns against Sunni-Shiite Strife

    W460

    Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani stressed on Friday that Shiites in the country have no links to the deadly bombings in the northern city of Tripoli.

    "Muslims must know that the blast in the southern suburbs of Beirut was not executed by Sunnis and today's bombings in Tripoli were not orchestrated by Shiites,” Qabbani said in a televised speech.

    He added: “Those who want to drag Lebanon into the regional conflict are the parties behind both blasts.”

    "This is a call for Lebanese of all sects to be aware of this terrorist message. They must wake up from their slumber.”

    "Terrorism is the most powerful weapon of the conspiracy against Lebanon and sedition the easiest road to burn down the region”

    The Mufti reminded the Lebanese of “their enmity with the Jews.”

    "Although you have your differences, you must not, however, forget your enmity with the Jews and be aware of what they are planning for you,” he noted.

    "It is in the interest of the Jews to create divisions and segregation between the Lebanese.”

    Earlier on Friday, scores of people were killed or wounded in twin bombings that targeted two mosques in Tripoli.

    The attacks come eight days after 27 people were killed and around 300 wounded in a car bombing that rocked the Beirut southern suburb of Ruwais, a Hizbullah bastion.

    Global Condemnations of Tripoli's Deadly Attacks

    W460

    U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned the deadly double car bombing in the northern city of Tripoli and appealed for restraint in the fractured country split over the war in neighboring Syria.

    "The secretary-general strongly condemns the two bomb explosions, shortly after Friday prayers, outside two mosques in Tripoli," a U.N. statement said.

    He went on to call on all Lebanese to "exercise restraint, to remain united, and to support their state institutions, particularly the security forces, in maintaining calm and order in Tripoli and throughout the country, and in preventing the recurrence of such destructive actions."

    "The Secretary-General hopes that those responsible for such cowardly acts of violence will be brought to justice as soon as possible."

    Meanwhile, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said she was "appalled" by the attacks in Tripoli and called for a swift investigation.

    Ashton "condemns this terrorist attack in the strongest terms and reaffirms that terrorism and any use of violence against civilians are completely unacceptable," a statement from her office said.

    "She calls for a swift investigation into the events and to bring the perpetrators to justice."

    The United States also condemned Friday's blasts.

    U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice wrote on Twitter that Washington "strongly condemns" the attacks, which also injured around 500 people.

    Rice also extended condolences for "the loss of innocent life."

    French President Francois Hollande also strongly condemned the "odious, cowardly attacks" in Tripoli.

    Hollande pledged France's continued support for Lebanon "in this tragic context", and backed the efforts of President Michel Suleiman and the Lebanese army to "safeguard Lebanon from the consequences of the Syrian crisis."

    The two powerful car bombs killed 42 people and wounded hundreds in the deadliest attack since the country's 1975-1990 civil war.

    The attack has further stoked fears that Syria's civil war could boil over into Lebanon, where clashes have periodically erupted between supporters and opponents of the regime in Damascus.








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