BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces arrested a suspect yesterday in connection with the devastating double bombing the day before that killed at least 47 people in the northern city of Tripoli, the state news agency said.
The National News Agency identified the suspect as Sheik Ahmad Al Ghareeb, and said police took him into custody at his home in the Miniyeh region outside Tripoli. It said Al Ghareeb, who has ties to a Sunni organisation that enjoys good relations with Lebanon’s powerful Shia Hezbollah militant group, appears in surveillance video at the site of one of the explosions.
The coordinated explosions on Friday outside two mosques in Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni city, raised already simmering sectarian tensions in fragile Lebanon, heightening fears the country could be slipping into a cycle of revenge attacks between its Sunni and Shia communities. For many Lebanese, the bombings also were seen as the latest evidence that Syria’s bloody civil war — with its dark sectarian overtones — is increasingly drawing in its smaller neighbour.
Lebanese police officials said yesterday that 47 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in the attack. Some 300 people were still in the hospital a day after the attack, 65 of them in critical condition, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In Tripoli, armed civilians set up checkpoints yesterday near the two mosques hit in the attacks, while Lebanese security forces patrolled the streets. A team of forensic experts was sifting through the mangled wreckage at the blast sites. Some residents used shovels and brooms to clean up shards of glass and shrapnel that littered the pavement in front of nearby shops.
Mourners buried dozens of people killed in the bombings as the country observed a day of mourning yesterday under tight security.
Armed men in civilian clothing stood guard outside the headquarters of political parties and at the houses of MPs and religious officials.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a native of Tripoli, called for an end to the bloodshed and urged rival Lebanese politicians to unite and maintain neutrality on the Syria war.
“We must end this political polarisation... We must return to the policy of dissociating (from the Syria conflict),” he said in his hometown after talks with several city officials.
“Enough of victims and enough of bloodshed,” Mikati pleaded.
Outside his Tripoli home, the streets were deserted as funerals were held for several victims including three siblings aged seven, five and four.