Tigers Militia

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Tigers Militia
نمور الأحرار
Participant in Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)
NLP Tigers Militia logo (1968-1980)
Active Until 1980
Groups Lebanese Front, Lebanese Forces
Leaders Naim Berdkan, Dany Chamoun, Dory Chamoun
Headquarters Sodeco (AchrafiehBeirut), Safra
Strength 3,500 fighters
Originated as 500 fighters
Allies Lebanese Army, Israel Defense Forces (IDF), South Lebanon Army (SLA), Guardians of the Cedars (GoC), Army of Free Lebanon (AFL), Al-Tanzim, Kataeb Regulatory Forces (KRF), Tyous Team of Commandos (TTC), Lebanese Forces
Opponents Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Lebanese Arab Army (LAA), Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Syrian Army, Amal Movement, Al-Mourabitoun, Lebanese Forces

The Tigers Militia (Arabic: نمور الأحرار, transliterated: Numūr or Al-Noumour), also known as NLP Tigers or Tigers of the Liberals (Arabic: Numur al-Ahrar) and PNL "Lionceaux" in French, was the military wing of the National Liberal Party (NLP) during the Lebanese Civil War.


The NLP militia was first raised in October 1968 by Camille Chamoun at his own home town of Es-Sa’adiyat, originally under the title Brigade of the Lebanese Tigers – BLT (Arabic: Katibat al-Numur al-Lubnaniyya) or Brigade des Lionceaux Libanais (BLL) in French, allegedly taken from his middle name, Nimr – meaning "Tiger" in Arabic. Initially just 500-men strong,[1] the BLT was organized, trained, and led by the ‘defence secretary’ of the NLP Naim Berdkan; after his death in action in January 1976, he was succeeded by Dany Chamoun, Camille Chamoun's younger son.

Allocated at first in the NLP party offices’ at the neighborhood of Sodeco in the Achrafieh quarter of Beirut, the Tigers’ military HQ was relocated in 1978 to Safra, a boat marina and tourist beach resort located 25 km north of the Lebanese capital in the Keserwan District, where it remained until the militia’s dissolution.

Structure and organization[edit]

Under the command of Dany Chamoun, the Tigers had become by 1978 the second largest militia force in the Christian Lebanese Front, and although the Chamouns never achieved with their militia the same level of organizational efficiency displayed by the rival Phalange' Kataeb Regulatory Forces militia, they were nonetheless capable of aligning 3,500 men and women, though other sources list a total of 4,000,[2] which included civilian recruits and deserters from the Lebanese Army. Its 500 full-time fighters and 3,000 part-time reservists were organized into armoured, ‘commando’, infantry, artillery, signals, medical, logistics and military police branches. Their chain of command was predominantly Maronite, though the rank-and-file were drawn from the Maronite, Greek-Orthodox, Druze, and Shi’ite militants of the NLP and trained in-country at clandestine facilities; first set up by the NLP in 1966 these training centres were located at Naas in the Metn, Es-Saadiyat in the Iqlim al-Kharrub coastal enclave south of Beirut and at Adma in the northern mountainous Keserwan District.

NLP militia units operated mainly in East Beirut, Jbeil and Tripoli in the Metn, Mount Lebanon and Keserwan Districts, but also had a presence at Zahlé in the Beqaa valley, at the south in the Iqlim al-Kharrub and the Jabal Amel,[3][4] where their local militants later played a key part in the formation of the Israeli-backed 'Free Lebanese Militia/Army', South Lebanon Army’s predecessor.

Weapons and equipment[edit]

The Tigers received covert support not only from the Lebanese Army in the pre-war years, but also from the United States, Iran, Jordan and Egypt since 1973, followed by Israel and Syria in 1976-77, who provided weapons and heavy equipment. In addition, the collapse of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) in January 1976, coupled by the massive influx of Israeli military aid, allowed NLP militia units to re-equip themselves with a variety of modern small-arms, sophisticated mobile communications equipment,[5] and military vehicles seized from LAF barracks and ISF Police stations or supplied by the Israelis.

Armoured and transport vehicles[edit]

The NLP militia raised a mechanized force of guntrucks (technicals), comprising M151 and M38A1 MD jeeps, Land-Rover series II-III,[6] Toyota Land Cruiser (J40), Peugeot 404, Dodge Power Wagon W200, GMC Sierra Custom K25/K30, Chevrolet C-10 Cheyenne and Chevrolet C-20 Scottsdale light pickups, and Toyota Dyna U10-series trucks fitted with heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles, and anti-aircraft autocannons. For logistical support, the Tigers relied on Toyota U10-series route vans (minibus),[7] Chevrolet Series 50 light-duty, Dodge 600 medium-duty and GMC C7500 medium-duty cargo trucks.

The Tigers’ own armoured corps was created in 1976, equipped with an assortment of ex-Lebanese Army M41 Walker Bulldog and AMX-13 light tanks, Charioteer tanks, M42 Duster SPAAGs, M113 and Panhard M3 VTT[8] Armoured personnel carriers, Staghound armoured cars,[9] and Panhard AML-90 armoured cars, bolstered by twenty Israeli-supplied M50 Super Sherman Tanks[10] and BTR-152 APCs.[11]


They also fielded a small artillery corps equipped with field artillery pieces of unknown types, British Bofors 40mm L/60 anti-aircraft guns[12] and anti-aircraft autocannons. The latter consisted of Soviet KPV 14.5mm, ZPU (ZPU-1, ZPU-2, ZPU-4) 14.5mm and ZU-23-2 23mm AA autocannons (mostly mounted on technicals), which were employed in both air defense and direct fire supporting roles.

Illegal activities and controversy[edit]

Financing for the NLP militia came at first from both Chamoun’s personal fortune and from 'protection' rackets collected in the areas under their control,[13] though they also received outside help. Conservative Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, together with Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States, provided covert funding, weapons, ammunition, training and other non-lethal assistance.[14] Most of it entered towards the illegal port of Dbayeh, set up in early 1976 and run by Joseph Abboud, former personal chauffeur and hunting partner of Camille Chamoun, who run drug-smuggling and arms contraband activities at the behalf of the NLP until 1980, when the Lebanese Forces brought the port under their authority.

Ruthless fighters with a reputation of aggressiveness,[15] aggrivated by lack of discipline and restraint,[16] they were involved in the Karantina, al-Masklah and Tel al-Zaatar Massacres of Palestinian refugees in East Beirut and Dbayeh, allied with the Army of Free Lebanon, Al-Tanzim, Kataeb Regulatory Forces, Lebanese Youth Movement and the Guardians of the Cedars.

Towards the end of the 1970s, however, rivalries within the Lebanese Front coalition strained the relationship between the NLP Tigers’ militia and their erstwhile Christian allies, leading them to violent confrontation with the Phalangists and the Guardians of the Cedars. The Tigers’ even battled these two factions in May 1979 for control of the Fern el-Shebak and Ain el-Rammaneh districts in Beirut, and for the town of Akoura in the Metn.[17]

List of Commanders[edit]

The Tigers in the civil war 1975-77[edit]

Upon the outbreak of the civil war in April 1975, the NLP Tigers immediately engaged the leftist Lebanese National Movement (LNM) militias and its Palestinian PLO allies, being heavily committed in several battles in and outside the Beirut area. In October 1975, they supported their Phalangist allies of the Kataeb Regulatory Forces (KRF) militia against the Al-Mourabitoun and the Nasserite Correctionist Movement (NCM) for the control of the Hotels district in centre Beirut.[18][19]

In January 1976 the collapse of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) enabled the Tigers to take over Army barracks and depots located at Achrafieh, Ain el-Rammaneh, Hadath, Baabda, and Hazmiyeh districts of East Beirut, seizing heavy weapons and enrolling defectors into its ranks. The Tigers later joined in March the allied Christian Lebanese Front militias in the defense of the Mount Lebanon region against the LNM-PLO ‘Spring Offensive’. During the Hundred Days War in February 1978 the Tigers, backed by the Tyous Team of Commandos, put a spirited defence of the Achrafieh and Fayadieh districts against the Syrian Army.

Reversals and decline 1978-1980[edit]

The Tigers’ involvement in the above-mentioned atrocities, however, cost them the loss of Damour and the Iqlim al-Kharrub to the LNM-PLO alliance in January 1976, which they failed to defend despite being backed by ISF units and Lebanese Army troops.[20] The fall of this important stronghold was a severe blow to the NLP and the Tigers (coupled by the death of their commander Naim Berdkan), depriving them of their main recruiting area along with their local training infrastructure, chiefly the Es-Saadiyat camp, and the port towns of Damour and Jiyeh.

To further aggrieve matters, relations between the NLP political board and the Tigers’ military command soured after the former, headed by Camille Chamoun, supported Syria’s military intervention in June that year whereas the latter, now led by its son Dany, strongly opposed to it. Fearing that its own party’ militia was getting out of control,[21] Camille tacitly allowed its Kataeb rivals to absorb the Tigers’ into the Lebanese Forces (LF) under Bachir Gemayel. Dany Chamoun’s adamant refusal of allowing the Tigers’ to be incorporated led the Phalangists to attack its Safra HQ on July 7, 1980, which resulted in a bloodbath that claimed up to 500 lives, mostly civilians.[22][23][24][25][26][27]

While their leader Dany was rushed to exile,[28] first to Syria and then to Europe after handling over the command of the Tigers to his elder brother Dory Chamoun, the militia was officially disbanded on Camille’s orders in late August. Soon afterwards, this was followed by the seizure on the part of the Phalangists of nearly all their positions in and outside East Beirut, including the vital Naas and Adma training camps. The remaining 3,000 militiamen either surrendered their weapons and returned home or found themselves being consolidated by the end of October of that year into the Damouri Brigade within the Lebanese Forces.[29]

Revival and disbandment 1983-1990[edit]

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, coupled by the death of the LF supremo Bachir Gemayel in September that year brought the resurgence of the National Liberals into the political scene, though the efforts by Camille Chamoun to revive the Tigers’ militia in 1983-84 proved less successful. The small force of only 100 or so lightly equipped fighters they gathered proved incapable of competing with the Lebanese Forces’ military might, being relegated to the role of a mere bodyguard for the NLP political leaders for the remainder of the war.

Upon the end of the civilian strife in October 1990 and the subsequent assassination of Dany Chamoun – who had succeeded his late father at the NLP’s presidency in October 1987 – the last remaining National Liberals’ paramilitary organization was disarmed on orders of the new Lebanese government. The NLP Tigers are no longer active.

The Free Tigers[edit]

The Free Tigers (Arabic: Noumour Al-Horr) or Lionceaux Libres in French, also known as the "Hannache Group", were a dissident splinter group of the NLP Tigers formed soon after the forcible merger of the latter into the Lebanese Forces in July 1980. Defying the official orders to disband, about 200 Tigers’ militiamen commanded by Elias El-Hannouche (nom de guerre ‘Hannache’) went underground to wage a guerrilla war against the LF, operating in the Hadath and Ain el-Rammaneh districts of East Beirut from August to late October 1980. The Free Tigers are believed to have been responsible for some bomb and guerrilla attacks in East Beirut, including an ambush with combined rocket- and small-arms’ fire on the U.S. Embassador’s motorcade in August that year (intended to discredit the LF), followed on 10 November by two car-bomb explosions on the Achrafieh quarter that left 10 dead and 62 wounded.[30] Defeated after a four-day street battle despite being backed by Lebanese Army troops sent upon request of the NLP president Camille Chamoun[31] and forced out in mid-November of their last remaining strongholds at Ain el-Rammaneh by the LF, Hannache and a number of its dissident Tigers fled across the Green Line into the Muslim-controlled western sector of the Lebanese Capital.[32] There they placed themselves under the protection of the Palestinian Fatah intelligence service before moving to the Syrian-controlled Beqaa Valley. Later on 20 December 1980, the Free Tigers managed to seize by force the former NLP party offices’ at Zahlé but they were resisted by local LF units and subsequently forced to withdraw from the town on December 22 under Syrian Army protection.[33][34] The Free Tigers seemed to have remained operational until 1981, though very little was heard from them afterwards.


Since 2002, several former NLP Tigers' commanders known for their right-wing, ultra-nationalist leanings rallied in support of General Michel Aoun and went on to occupy various key positions within the Aounist Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) hierarchy, ranging from political (Dr Naji Hayek and Georges Aaraj) to security (Jean Eid and Bob Azzam).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McGowan, Roberts, Abu Khalil, and Scott Mason, Lebanon: a country study (1989), p. 240.
  2. ^ El-Kazen, The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon (2000), p. 302.
  3. ^ Rabinovich, The War for Lebanon (1989), p. 65.
  4. ^ Deeb, The Lebanese Civil War (1980), pp. 25-28.
  5. ^ Jureidini, McLaurin, and Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas (1979), pp. 42-45.
  6. ^ Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 58.
  7. ^ Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 67.
  8. ^ Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 56.
  9. ^ Ludovic Fortin, T17E1 Staghound Armored Car – Le char sur roues, Trucks & Tracks Magazine, December 2007 - January 2008 issue, pp. 48-67.
  10. ^ Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon (2012), p. 62.
  11. ^ http://osw.zone/paint-weathering-diorama/vallejo-colors/135-btr-152-apc-armed-with-bofors-40-mm-gunnlp-tigers-militialebanon1976-by/ - 1/35 Model Photos of a Lebanese Tigers Militia AA QF Bofors 40mm gun mounted on a BTR-152 APC, c.1976.
  12. ^ http://osw.zone/paint-weathering-diorama/vallejo-colors/135-btr-152-apc-armed-with-bofors-40-mm-gunnlp-tigers-militialebanon1976-by/ - 1/35 Model Photos of a Lebanese Tigers Militia AA QF Bofors 40mm gun mounted on a BTR-152 APC, c.1976.
  13. ^ Randall, Going All the Way (2012), p. 125.
  14. ^ El-Kazen, The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon (2000), p. 304.
  15. ^ McGowan, Roberts, Abu Khalil, and Scott Mason, Lebanon: a country study (1989), p. 240.
  16. ^ Bavly & Salpeter, Fire in Beirut (1984), p. 52.
  17. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 90.
  18. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 29.
  19. ^ Jureidini, McLaurin, and Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas (1979), p. 6.
  20. ^ McGowan, Roberts, Abu Khalil, and Scott Mason, Lebanon: a country study (1989), p. 158.
  21. ^ http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/1200819
  22. ^ Katz, Russel, and Volstad, Armies in Lebanon (1985), p. 8.
  23. ^ Gordon, The Gemayels (1988), p. 58.
  24. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 100.
  25. ^ Hoy and Ostrovsky, By Way of Deception (1990), p. 302.
  26. ^ Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), pp. 53-54.
  27. ^ McGowan, Roberts, Abu Khalil, and Scott Mason, Lebanon: a country study (1989), p. 240.
  28. ^ Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 54.
  29. ^ Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 55.
  30. ^ Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), pp. 55-56.
  31. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 103.
  32. ^ Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 56.
  33. ^ Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban (2004), p. 57.
  34. ^ Mclaurin, The battle of Zahle (1986), pp. 6-7.


  • Afaf Sabeh McGowan, John Roberts, As’ad Abu Khalil, and Robert Scott Mason, Lebanon: a country study, area handbook series, Headquarters, Department of the Army (DA Pam 550-24), Washington D.C. 1989. - [1]
  • Alain Menargues, Les Secrets de la guerre du Liban: Du coup d'état de Béchir Gémayel aux massacres des camps palestiniens, Albin Michel, Paris 2004. ISBN 978-2226121271 (in French)
  • Claire Hoy and Victor Ostrovsky, By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer, St. Martin’s Press, New York 1990. ISBN 0-9717595-0-2
  • Dan Bavly & Eliahu Salpeter, Fire in Beirut: Israel's War in Lebanon with the PLO, Stein & Day, New York 1984. ISBN 978-0812829242
  • Denise Ammoun, Histoire du Liban contemporain: Tome 2 1943-1990, Fayard, Paris 2005. ISBN 978-2-213-61521-9 (in French)
  • Edgar O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon, 1975-92, Palgrave Macmillan, 1998. ISBN 0-333-72975-7
  • Farid El-Kazen, The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon 1967-1976, I. B. Tauris, London 2000. ISBN 0-674-08105-6
  • Fawwaz Traboulsi, Identités et solidarités croisées dans les conflits du Liban contemporain; Chapitre 12: L'économie politique des milices: le phénomène mafieux, Thèse de Doctorat d'Histoire – 1993, Université de Paris VIII, 2007. (in French) – [2]
  • Itamar Rabinovich, The war for Lebanon, 1970-1985, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London 1989 (revised edition). ISBN 0-8014-9313-7
  • Jonathan Randall, Going All the Way: Christian Warlords, Israeli Adventurers and the War in Lebanon, Just World Books 2012. ISBN 978-1935982166
  • Marius Deeb, The Lebanese Civil War, Praeger Publishers Inc., New York 1980. ISBN 978-0030397011
  • Paul Jureidini, R. D. McLaurin, and James Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas, 1975-1978, Aberdeen, MD: U.S. Army Human Engineering Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Technical Memorandum 11-79, June 1979.
  • R.D. Mclaurin, The battle of Zahle, Aberdeen, MD: U.S. Army Human Enginnering Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Technical memorandum 8-86, 1986.
  • Samir Kassir, La Guerre du Liban: De la dissension nationale au conflit régional, Éditions Karthala/CERMOC, Paris 1994. ISBN 978-2865374991 (in French)
  • Samuel M. Katz, Lee E. Russel, and Ron Volstad, Armies in Lebanon 1982-84, Men-at-Arms series 165, Osprey Publishing, London 1985. ISBN 0-85045-602-9
  • Samuel M. Katz and Ron Volstad, Arab Armies of the Middle East Wars 2, Men-at-arms series 194, Osprey Publishing, London 1988. ISBN 0-85045-800-5
  • Matthew S. Gordon, The Gemayels (World Leaders Past & Present), Chelsea House Publishers, 1988. ISBN 978-1-55546-834-7

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Moustafa El-Assad, Civil Wars Volume 1: The Gun Trucks, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2008. ISBN 978-9953-0-1256-8
  • Samer Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon, Beirut: Elite Group, 2003. ISBN 9953-0-0705-5
  • Samer Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon 1975-1981, Trebia Publishing, Chyah 2012. ISBN 978-9953-0-2372-4

External links[edit]