Saida Salafi cleric to form militia: official

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Armed supporters of Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir at a funeral in the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon on 12 November 2012. (Photo: AFP - Mahmoud Zayyat)

Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir is expected to announce in the next couple of days the formation of a military wing to “resist the Iranian project and its allies,” security officials told Al-Akhbar.

The sources said that the Islamist faction is well armed and financed and that fighters have been training in northern Lebanon for months, led by a certain Khaled al-Qiblawi.

The tip comes as Lebanese Army General Jean Kahwagi visited military units on patrol in the southern city of Sidon Tuesday where a clash between supporters of Hezbollah and Assir left three people dead on Sunday.

Sunday’s clashes came two days after Assir gave a heated sermon titled “Our Peace and Their Aggression,” in which the Sheikh set a 48-hour deadline for Hezbollah to remove its posters in the city commemorating the Shia holiday of Ashoura.

Two days later violence erupted in the Sidon neighborhood of Taamir near the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp as a motorcade carrying Assir and his armed entourage arrived to confront Hezbollah supporters.

Two of those killed were reportedly Assir’s bodyguards, while the third victim was an Egyptian boy aged 14 or 15 who was caught in the crossfire. Several others were injured including a Hezbollah official.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called for patience and restraint in a televised address Monday in response to the events, urging Sunnis and Shias to remain vigilant of sectarian incitement.

Amal Khalil contributed to this story.

(Al-Akhbar)

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