Lebanon tense as military vows fight
BEIRUTLebanon’s army will fight until it “finishes with” a radical Sunni sheikh whose supporters have clashed with troops, killing 12 soldiers, the security cabinet said after a meeting yesterday.
“The army has a duty... to continue its operations until it finishes with the armed men, brings (Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir’s) headquarters under control, and arrests the army’s attackers,” the statement said.
The statement comes after an emergency meeting, chaired by President Michel Sleiman, which included the commander of the Lebanese army, ministers and top security officials.
The meeting was convened to study “the progress of military operations after an attack on an army checkpoint” in Abra on the outskirts of the southern Lebanon city of Sidon on June 23, the statement said. Fierce clashes have raged in Abra, leaving 12 troops dead, among them two officers, according to the army.
Opposed to Hezbollah
Five Assir supporters have also been killed in clashes near his headquarters in Abra, a source close to the cleric said. The army says the clashes broke out after Assir’s supporters attacked a checkpoint in Abra.
Assir was unknown just two years ago, but he gained prominence as the spillover into Lebanon from the conflict in neighboring Syria has escalated. Assir is radically opposed to powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, close ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.