Druze leader Walid Jumblat demanded Wednesday that the engineer of the military clampdown on the rightist Christian opposition groups be fired from his post and threatened to pull his three cabinet ministers out from the government.
“We cannot be members of a government that cannot control the conduct of the nation’s affairs,” Jumblat told a packed news conference about the rarely precedented wave of arrests the army staged Tuesday night in Beirut and its environs.
Up to 250 activists of General Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces were nabbed in house raids in the suburbs of Jal El Deeb and Antelias from mid-morning Tuesday to the late pre-dawn hours on Wednesday.
Among the detainees were Aoun’s top Lebanon aide, Lt. Gen. Nadim Lteif, and Geagea’s political advisor Toufiq Hindi.
The Murr-TV network aired videotape that showed troops breaking into houses and partisan offices and escorting Gen. Lteif and Hindi from their homes to army trucks packed with at least 140 activists from both groups.
Most of the detainees were taken to interrogation chambers of the army’s intelligence branch at the defense ministry compound in suburban Yarze east of Beirut.
Gen. Aoun fired off a statement from his Paris exile, charging that “Emile Lahoud is arresting those who are struggling for Lebanon’s independence, herding them into the defense ministry that was changed from a fortress in Lebanon’s defense to a huge prison.”
Weighty Lebanese politicians deplored the arrests as a police state tactic and some bluntly accused President Lahoud of personally giving the green light to the army, possibly heralding the introduction of a military regime.
The army command had charged that Aounists and LF activists were scheming to ignite a civil war, a claim that was rejected by politicians and the local media as ridiculous.
A military communiqué, last in the morning, said interrogation of some of the detainees was over and they had been released, while others were committed to trial before military courts. The communiqué mentioned no figures.