Salafi Sheikh Livid Over Saida Ashura Posters

Lebanon's Salafist leader Ahmad al-Assir marches with supporters during the funeral of two of his supporters, who died during Sunday's fighting with supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah, in Saida, Lebanon 12 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Ali Hashisho)

By: Amal Khalil

Published Monday, November 12, 2012

Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir is back at it, trying to instigate a Sunni-Shia confrontation, this time in his southern hometown of Saida. After a Friday sermon berating Hezbollah, he and his supporters went on the offensive on Sunday, leaving death and injury in their wake.

This past Friday, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir of Saida gave a sermon titled “Our Peace and Their Aggression,” in which he gave Hezbollah 48 hours to remove its posters commemorating Ashura from the outskirts of Saida. The Shia party had placed the signs on the edges of the city as a marker of the death of the revered Imam Hussein.

“We are not mobilizing against the Shia sect,” Assir told his congregation in Saida’s Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. “Our goal is to bring down the party of assassin.” He said that the “banners of Iran’s party...will be raised over my dead body.”

On Saturday, Assir’s supporters threatened to take to Saida’s streets to remove Hezbollah’s banners and launch a sit-in against the Shia party’s “complete domination of the city.” In particular, they demanded the removal of an Israeli armored personnel carrier that the Resistance had captured and placed it in one of the city’s main roundabouts.

The authorities, including Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel and a number of other local and security officials, contacted Assir in an attempt to calm him down. Hezbollah’s leadership was also contacted to convince them to take down their banners to help defuse the situation.

Meanwhile, the head of army intelligence in the South sent a message to Assir warning him that the security forces planned to deal firmly with any attempts to undermine the city’s stability. Hezbollah, for its part, heeded the advice to take down their signs from major intersections in Saida.

On Sunday morning, Assir seemed ready to calm things down, telling the press that he did not plan to make any moves as long as the banners had been taken down. By the afternoon, his tone changed completely; a call for the sheikh’s supporters to gather in the mosque appeared on Assir’s Facebook page.

The reason for this change of heart was news that Ashura banners were being hung on street poles in an area not far from the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. Others believe that the real reason was to create a divergence for an incident involving Assir’s 15-year-old son, Omar, on the coastal highway.

Omar was apparently stopped at an Internal Security Forces (ISF) checkpoint for driving a car with tinted windows without the necessary paperwork from the interior ministry. The ISF also discovered that the driver was underaged and didn’t have a license, so they detained him and his vehicle.

Within minutes, the ISF checkpoint was mobbed by the sheikh and his supporters, demanding that Omar be released. After threatening the commanding officer, Assir succeeded in retrieving his son and left.

The army quickly deployed to the area where the Ashura banners were reportedly being hung, hoping to stave off any confrontations between the young men who had congregated in the area awaiting Assir’s arrival.

News soon came that the sheikh’s motorcade was instead headed toward Taameer, a poor and religiously mixed neighborhood that lies on the edge of the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp. As the sound of gunfire rose from the area, few local officials were able to reach Taameer to prevent any confrontation.

Sheikh Zayd Daher, Hezbollah’s representative in Saida, was among the first to arrive at the scene. He tried to convince local residents to take down a poster hung quite some time ago that included an image of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, to which Assir’s supporters were objecting.

This is when a motorcade of seven cars, carrying Assir and his companions, arrived at the scene and immediately started firing in all directions. The first to fall was 14-year-old Ali Sharbini, an Egyptian national, who later died. When Daher tried to pick up the wounded child, he was shot twice, in the stomach and shoulder.

The response from some local residents was near immediate, as they started firing on Assir’s motorcade, killing two of his bodyguards.

Sunday’s events are nothing more than a dress rehearsal for a civil war, featuring sectarian incitement followed by armed attacks. New lines of confrontation were drawn as people fled their tense neighborhoods seeking shelter.

Later, Assir claimed in a statement that he and a group of supporters had gone to the Taameer area to peacefully remove a provocative banner placed there by Hezbollah. Upon arriving, the statement said, they were fired on with intent to kill. In order to open a safe passage for the sheikh, his companions were forced to fire back. It concluded by saying, “We were peaceful, but we fell into a trap.”

At the request of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Minister of Interior Charbel headed to Saida on Sunday evening to hold a meeting with regional security officials. In the meantime the army was deployed throughout the city to prevent any roads from being blocked and to maintain calm.

After his meeting, Charbel recommended that the government issue an order that Saida become a military zone. This would allow the army to set up checkpoints and deploy troops to impose order in the city. For their part, the two Shia parties – Amal and Hezbollah – called on their supporters to remain calm and avoid any provocation that may lead to further confrontations.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

They should disarm themselves. The Lebanon will suffer from war and fear if there will be no peace!

At the beginning I would like to tell the writer Amal khalil that in her work, there are couple of misleading phrases she used.
First in the opening paragraph you said that "Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir gave Hezbollah 48 hours to remove its posters commemorating Ashura from the outskirts of Saida." This is a fallacy, cause he asked them to put down hizb posters and pictures of hasan nasrlah, not Ashura posters!!! And yes, there is a very big difference between the two. And the following paragraph explains that "“We are not mobilizing against the Shia sect,” Assir told his congregation in Saida’s Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. “Our goal is to bring down the party of assassin.”"

Second, you said that "the real reason was to create a divergence for an incident involving Assir’s 15-year-old son, Omar, on the coastal highway.

Omar was apparently stopped at an Internal Security Forces (ISF) checkpoint for driving a car with tinted windows without the necessary paperwork from the interior ministry. The ISF also discovered that the driver was underaged and didn’t have a license, so they detained him and his vehicle."
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir said in a press conference with MTV Leb that his son Abdulrahman 17 years old and not 15, was driving the Sheikh's car without tinted windows and he asked the camera man to take pictures of it!!!! so please Amal, don't try to manipulate the truth by saying falsified phrases that can get the reader into different analysis and conclusions.
I just want to know, when journalists are going to abide by the universal moralities of their field.
Thank you

Who's paying him.the Kingdom or is it a foreign intelligence..

only in Lebanon a nut like Assir is allowed to incite violence like that. this guy should be in jail

Example of what happens when religious nuts are allowed to run loose!

The worst about these religious goof is that they are trying to attack the non-religious people for immoral issue blah blah blah to justify their religious extremism or trying to impose their religious view to take the society back to stone ages. That's why I argue with some moron that "secular sectarianism" is much better than religious sectarianism. Apparently that guy can't take it, he bashes the leftist and athiest for being "hypocrite".

you are biased to the bone. hezbollah must be disarmed. this will happen sooner or later. if in doubt, go to nahr al-kalb and see reminders of foreign invaders who stay here was transitory.

Biased? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Too bad Hezbollah are not foreign invaders. They are Lebanese. That's why they have legitimacy, that's part of why they're so successful, and that's why they wont ever disarm at the demand of those supposedly "open minded" and "non sectarian" Lebanese who abandoned the south of Lebanon and would be more than happy to sell out to Israel.

If Hezbollah are disarmed who will defend Lebanon for the Zionist entity? It will not be the Salafi, they was a creature of the Saudi / U.S. / Israeli axes of power in the region.

It's an illusion to believe that Israel would attack Lebanon if Hezbollah disarmed. There's no reason they would, will or want to. We can all live in peace after Hezb disarms. They are the threat more than Israel.

Ok Ja3ja3.

what an ignorant comment. how about the decades in which they attacked us repeatedly before hezbollah even existed? you're going to say "oh there were pretexts, other reasons, other causes etc..." ? well it will always be the case, they will always have a "good" reason to attack, unless we can defend ourselves. Since 2006 it is the longest period of time we had without israeli attacks, bombing of power plants or Qana-type massacre (sorry i meant to say "misfiring")... think about it

Did you miss the memo of Israel bombing and invading Lebanon mercilessly since 1982 (and earlier)? And their occupation UNTIL Hezbollah kicked them out? The only illusion is your contention that somehow, the aggressor who has a proven track record, Israel, will suddenly change course, and that the liberators of Lebanon should be foolish enough to have faith in that. And that's not even touching on the suffering of the Palestinian people, which is directly a Lebanese issue, given the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Lebanese camps.

All factions in Lebanon (both March 14 and March 8) must disarm themselves. There will be no peace in Lebanon if both sides refuses to surrender their arms.

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