Islamists confront Lebanon's army in Sidon
Published Friday, June 28, 2013
Fresh clashes broke out in Lebanon's southern city of Sidon Friday afternoon when armed supporters of fugitive Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir provoked a confrontation with Lebanese soldiers.
Dozens of armed Islamists, following prayers at a local mosque, marched towards the suburb of Abra to Assir's compound – which is under control of the army – and opened fire at soldiers, according to the National News Agency.
No casualties have been reported.
The army launched a manhunt for the extremist cleric after he fled a two-day battle earlier this week which killed 18 soldiers.
Meanwhile in the Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli, which has been home to frequent clashes involving Islamists, gunmen shut down a major road and forced shop owners lock up.
They also fired into the air as they tore down a banner showing Future leader Saad Hariri and replaced it with one of Ahmad al-Assir, according to TV reports.
Lebanon's Salafis were until very recently close to Hariri, who is widely acknowledged to have been one of their main backers, but many now consider him a traitor after distancing himself from the radicals following their attack on the Lebanese army in Sidon.
Salafi fundamentalists have been simmering with anger since they lost a couple dozen of their brethren Sunday and Monday during a fierce battle with Lebanon's army in Abra.
The battle was sparked after a group of gunmen ambushed an army checkpoint in Abra on Sunday and killed a number of soldiers. The gunmen then retreated to a nearby safe-house under control of Assir's militants where the battle ensued.