24 April 2008

-Mutiny and Riot in Roumiyeh

Dozens of inmates rioted Thursday at Lebanon's largest prison and took several prison guards hostage, just steps away from Fatah al-Islam prisoners. Riot police and reinforcements were sent to Roumieh penitentiary, to get the situation under control.

Roumieh is Lebanon's main jail. It is made up of several buildings and the detainees there include four former generals held in connection with the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and also members of the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam militant group.

Riot policemen inched their way across the convicts building of the central Roumiyeh Prison Thursday to disperse a mutiny and free eight guards taken hostages.

Security sources said hundreds of riot policemen advanced across the ground floor of the building after firefighters extinguished a blaze that inmates had started in mattresses after taking guards hostage.

"The riot police force moved into the building through emergency outlets, cleared the ground floor which includes the management offices and moved into the first floor" of the three-story building, said one source who asked not to be identified. Each floor includes 60 cells.

"In brief, the force would have to search 180 cells. It is expected to be a complicated operation that might last until Friday, unless the mutineers surrender," he added.

The rioting inmates are armed with makeshift knives, and "sharp tools," the source added.

"They don't have firearms simply because the guards they took hostage were not armed in line with prison rules," the source explained.

The advancing force is using "tear gas canisters to control the inmates, some of whom are surrendering," he added.

Most of the mutineers are convicts of Palestinian descent, the source said.

He explained that four ex-security commanders, jailed in Roumiyeh in connection with the 2005 murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri, are in "another building that is 150 meters away from the convicts' compound."

Meanwhile, army paratroopers cordoned off the walled prison compound sitting on a hill east of Beirut, in a precautionary measure to prevent possible escape of mutineers or reinforcement.

The mutiny started at 4:35 p.m. as a dispute between one of the inmates and a guard distributing food, the source added.

"It quickly developed into a mutiny as other inmates joined in and overpowered guards," he added.

The prison is extremely overcrowded: 4500 are housed in a complex originally designed for 1500 inmates.


"The riot police force moved into the building through emergency outlets, cleared the ground floor which includes the management offices and moved into the first floor" of the three-story building, said one source who asked not to be identified. Each floor includes 60 cells.

"In brief, the force would have to search 180 cells. It is expected to be a complicated operation that might last until Friday, unless the mutineers surrender," he added.

The rioting inmates are armed with makeshift knives, and "sharp tools," the source added.

"They don't have firearms simply because the guards they took hostage were not armed in line with prison rules," the source explained.

The advancing force is using "tear gas canisters to control the inmates, some of whom are surrendering," he added.

Most of the mutineers are convicts of Palestinian descent, the source said.

He explained that four ex-security commanders, jailed in Roumiyeh in connection with the 2005 murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri, are in "another building that is 150 meters away from the convicts' compound."

Meanwhile, army paratroopers cordoned off the walled prison compound sitting on a hill east of Beirut, in a precautionary measure to prevent possible escape of mutineers or reinforcement.

The mutiny started at 4:35 p.m. as a dispute between one of the inmates and a guard distributing food, the source added.

"It quickly developed into a mutiny as other inmates joined in and overpowered guards," he added.
(yalibnan/naharnet)

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Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.