Tripoli, northern Lebanon
The Independent Voices
Lebanese military personnel secure the scene where a militant attacked security forces on Monday night ( Reuters )
Saber Mrad grinned up from his bed on the third floor of the Islamic Hospital with a hero’s smile.
“I’ve always been the kind of person to interfere if someone’s being hurt,” he said. “I’ve never been scared in my life.” Which is just as well. For the cheerful Lebanese with the Australian accent, his torso covered in bandages and far too many tattoos, had deliberately crashed his car into the motor-cycle-riding Isis killer who opened fire on crowds of civilians preparing for the Eid al-Fitr festival in the Northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
The back of Mrad’s head is also swathed in gauze and bandages because – this being a truly bloody tale without many Hollywood happy endings – the Isis veteran from Syria shot him three times in the brain and once below the neck.
“I felt the bullets hitting me in a blur and then the back of my head opened. It was surreal,” Mrad said – and he never stopped smiling at me as he remembered – “but this guy had big hate-filled eyes, he seemed to hate everybody. He had a beard like me but longer, and he kept saying filthy things at all the people round me. It was surreal.”
Even Mrad’s aunt and his other female relatives standing at the bottom of the 31-year-old construction worker’s bed open their mouths in awe at such a frightful description.
“There was a lot of blood and I started to walk and I couldn’t see and I kept telling people, ‘Where are you?’ I couldn’t see anything. One guy stayed with me during the rest of the shooting and wouldn’t leave me till an ambulance came and he kept saying, ‘It isn’t that bad,’ and he stayed with me till the ambulance came and then he disappeared.
“All I did was try to help people – I’ve always been like that, all my life. I just said, ‘I can’t let this man go on shooting at these people’. I just couldn’t let those people go on getting killed.”
So much for the drama last week, which cost the lives of two Lebanese soldiers and two cops. But the drama did not end when Abdul Rahman Mabsout, the Isis veteran who had fought against the Assad regime in Syria, smashed his way into an empty fourth-floor apartment, shot his last victim from the balcony and blew himself up with a grenade amid a blaze of army gunfire.
The balcony is now gutted black, bullet holes spattered around it, an ugly black hole in a new apartment block almost as dark as the holes which Mabsout blew in the body politic of Lebanon.
For it has now emerged that the “have-a-go” hero of Lebanon risked his life for a people whose country had refused to give him its citizenship – for the simple and disgraceful reason that while his mother was Lebanese, his father was Palestinian.