Lebanese politician seeks state of emergency in Syria spillover
BEIRUT –- The leader of a prominent Lebanese political party called Friday for declaring a state of emergency in his country as the Syrian conflict continued to spill over into Lebanon.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea called for the measure after a week in which a Lebanese politician was arrested and accused of planning to target Sunni Muslims in Lebanon. On Wednesday, a powerful Shiite clan kidnapped dozens of Syrians and other nationals in retaliation for the kidnapping of a family member by Free Syrian Army rebels.
More kidnappings were reported Thursday, though the clan denied responsibility.
There are widespread fears that the 17-month uprising in Syria will affect neighboring countries, especially now that it has increasingly become a sectarian conflict. Lebanon has its own history with sectarian strife during its civil war.
"The image formed in every citizen's mind now is that Lebanon is an uncontrolled state with no authority, constitution or rules whatsoever," Geagea said at a televised news conference at which he condemned the kidnappings. "No matter how righteous and decent their cause was, nothing justifies what happened, as it paralyzed the country and annulled the state's role."
Hasan Mokdad was kidnapped in Syria several days ago, and online video has showed him sitting in front of three armed men. The rebels holding him allege he is an operative with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based group that opposition and Western governments have said is aiding in the crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Mokdad's family said he is a private citizen and threatened to continue kidnapping Syrians and others until he is released.
"We have barely executed 1% of our goals until now. We know the names of those hosting members of the Free Syrian Army, and we are capable of reaching them … in case of any act against us," another family representative told an official news agency.
But on Friday, 21 Syrians were released after it was "proved that they have nothing to do with the Free Syrian Army," a Mokdad family member told the NOW Lebanon news site.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman urged against threatening the safety of those in Lebanon, regardless of nationality, even as several Persian Gulf countries, many of which have been supporting the Syrian rebels, warned their citizens to leave the country.
On Wednesday, armed men blocked the road leading to the Beirut airport with burning tires, forcing travelers to walk past the gridlock to reach the terminal.
Meanwhile, the investigation of former Lebanese Cabinet minister and parliament member Michel Samaha continued this week. Samaha is a strong supporter of the Assad regime.
Samaha, along with two Syrian army officers, is charged with trying to form an armed group to commit acts of chaos and sabotage and to sow sectarian strife through political and religious assassinations, the Information Ministry reported.
-- Times staff
Photo: Two of the Syrians kidnapped by a large Lebanese clan are shown at an undisclosed location in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, near the border with Syria, on Wednesday. Credit: Abbas Sabbagh/AFP/Getty Images