|More bombs, explosives, detonators turn up in and around shaken Beirut
|Incidents follow discovery of unarmed device earlier this week
Lebanon's security forces found bomb-making equipment in three separate caches on Thursday, just two days after a bomb was discovered in Beirut, sowing new fears among a public that is still reeling from recent bus bombings and street clashes.
A source close to the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said Thursday's first discovery was made by a scrap collector, identified only as "Malek," who found 19 sticks of TNT - a total of about 9 kilograms - in the capital's Achrafieh neighborhood. The explosives were inside in a wooden box placed in a dumpster on Hikmeh Avenue leading to Corniche al-Nahr, facing the Murr Television Station and the Mont Liban Radio building.
The discovery was made at approximately 8:30 a.m., and police rushed to the scene and cordoned off the area to conduct a thorough search.
Half an hour later, some Sukleen employees found an aluminum box packed with 13 detonators about 200 meters away from the first discovery.
Then, at 6:30 p.m., eight bombs were found on the road leading to the Kesrouan village of Ghbaleh, the National News Agency (NNA) reported.
The NNA added that an ISF expert said the devices in Kesrouan were not set to detonate. A full ISF investigation is under way.
Parliament majority leader MP Saad Hariri said those behind the placing of bomb-making materials were trying to intimidate the security forces and "instigate strife in different ways so Lebanon remains a hostage to fear and instability."
"We are sure that the security forces and the Lebanese Army are doing their best to pursue the criminals and refer them to the judiciary and prevent any harm that might strike innocent people," Hariri said in a statement after the first discovery.
Explosives were found Tuesday concealed in a car tire in the area of Bir Hassan. On February 13, two bombs exploded minutes apart exploded on a busy commuter mountain road in the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut, killing three passengers and wounding 20 others.
A security source said it was unclear whether the explosives found on Thursday were the same kind used in the other incidents. Attempts to contact the ISF to comment on this issue were unsuccessful.
A judicial source said Malek was detained and was being questioned. The Sukleen employees, who were also held for interrogation, were later released.
Military Investigating Magistrate Jean Fahd ordered the relevant security bodies to conduct the necessary investigations into the incident.
Residents were asked to evacuate the area of the first discov-ery while the search was carried out, but by mid-morning, stores in the neighborhood had opened for business.
"Usually, we're busy every day," said hairdresser Rita Merhy, who works at Salon Dani Lahoud facing the site where the explosives were found.
"Today, our clients phoned to see if we were all okay, and then cancelled their appointments," she told The Daily Star. "People are afraid to come to this area now, and this is definitely bad for business."
"Honestly, what can we do?" she asked. "Wear something to protect us? There is nothing we can do to stop this from happening," she added.
In the store next door, Solderie des Marques, employee Marie Abi Abboud aired her concerns about the future.
"On a personal level, obviously it is frightening, but in some way we have become used to these kinds of things happening in Beirut," she said. "My main concern now is how badly business will be affected. We opened at 9:30 a.m., and by noon we only had two clients. Usually we have a lot more."
She said that since the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, business has been decreasing as more and more assassinations, bombings, and clashes occur around the city. "We will stay open, but whether we continue to have customers is a different story," she added.
Marina, a local shopowner, aired similar concerns.
"These kinds of things make life extremely difficult for us, because they happen right on our doorstep," she said. "I have to be really careful what I do and where I go ... especially since I have children who come to this area on a daily basis."
In a separate development, a lead may have been found in the assassination of former Communist Party chief George Hawi, who was killed by a car bomb on June 21, 2005.
ISF chief Ashraf Rifi said in an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. late Thursday that Lebanese authorities "are chasing a suspect through Interpol whom they believe is behind the murder."
The Daily Star