Firm military rhetoric in Lebanon against ‘any hand that aggresses’
BEIRUT - Lebanon's army chief has warned that the military will "pursue" anyone who attacks it, in an interview published on Monday after two troops were killed in a clash with Islamists in the country's east.
"Any hand that aggresses the army will be cut off," army commander Jean Kahwaji told newspaper Al-Safir.
"We will pursue the attackers wherever they are, and whatever party they are loyal to," Kahwaji added.
The army chief had on Sunday said that Friday's attack on an army patrol in the east Lebanon area of Arsal, near the Syrian border, was "premeditated". Kahwaji also said the soldiers were killed in a "barbaric way".
"Methods were used that are against our Christian and Muslim beliefs," he said of the attack, in which two Lebanese soldiers, one a captain, were killed in the clash with militants.
Security officials have identified the attackers as radical Islamists.
A local official said the soldiers were killed using axes and their corpses mutilated, adding that they had likely been tortured before their deaths.
The army has in the wake of the attacks launched an in-depth security operation in the area.
On Sunday, Kahwaji praised the army for "standing in the face of plans for our country to be consumed by regional chaos".
Lebanon has suffered a spillover of Syria's raging war, which the UN says has left 60,000 people dead in nearly two years.
Northern and eastern Lebanon have been struck by frequent cross-border shellings and clashes, while the Syrian regime has told Lebanon to better control its porous border to prevent the smuggling of fighters and arms.
According to Al-Safir newspaper, Friday's ambush "is an indicator of the risk posed by (Islamist) cells that have been created on the frontline due to the Syrian crisis".
Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Syria for nearly 30 years.
The small Mediterranean country is sharply divided over the Syrian revolt, which erupted in March 2011.
Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies back the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, while the Sunni-led Future movement and its allies support the revolt.