BEIRUT — The commander-in-chief of the Lebanese Army, Gen. Joseph Aoun, on Friday visited several soldiers based in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a day after a raid by the army in the Burj al-Barajneh neighborhood left a number of soldiers injured. The raid was part of an operation against people wanted for drug trafficking and murder, according to the state-run National News Agency.
During his visit, Aoun affirmed the willingness of the army to fight against drug trafficking, a phenomenon, which he says is "more dangerous than terrorism."
The army operation on Thursday resulted in seven minor injuries among the military. Two of the targeted people were also wounded.
The raid led to the arrest of seven suspects, including one described by the army as "one of the most active drug traffickers in the southern suburbs."
During his visit, Aoun, whose name has been repeatedly put forward as a potential candidate for the Lebanese presidency, went to greet two of the soldiers who remain hospitalized at the military hospital.
He then went to the Henri Chehab barracks, in Bir Hassan in the southern suburbs, where he was briefed those present on the details of the operation carried out the day before and met with members of the security office deployed in the area, which is attached to the army's intelligence service.
No civilian casualties
During his visits, he praised the troops for their "professionalism in carrying out a precise and difficult operation in a complex and crowded area."
"The military managed to dismantle one of the most dangerous drug trafficking networks without injuring any civilians," Aoun said.
He added that the army is fighting drug trafficking "all over the country" because it is "even more dangerous than terrorism."
"It is our duty to protect the inhabitants of the southern suburbs and all regions from this poison," he said, before assuring that the army "is committed to fighting this war whatever the cost."
The Lebanese authorities have been stepping up their efforts for months to fight against the production and trafficking of drugs, especially captagon, in response to criticism from the Gulf monarchies.
Earlier in the day on Friday, Aoun met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, with whom he reviewed the security situation in the country and that of the troops.
The army commander had met on Thursday with the caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Earlier this month, former American diplomat David Schenker said that he expects Aoun to become Lebanon's president in the coming months.