Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Virunga Park chief shot

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algerian election: Bouteflika votes in wheelchair

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algeria's media: a mixture of censorship and free speech

Read more

WEB NEWS

Nigerian web users call for end to violence

Read more

FOCUS

Bitcoin in the US: A monetary revolution?

Read more

ENCORE!

Fast cars and slow trains

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande: France's most unpopular president

Read more

  • Captain not at helm when ship listed, South Korean officials say

    Read more

  • Nobel-winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    Read more

  • With a strong French presence, veterans and fresh faces, Cannes aims to please

    Read more

  • Low turnout reported in Algeria as Bouteflika seeks fourth term

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • Russia and West agree on steps to ease Ukraine crisis

    Read more

  • Mob launches deadly attack on UN shelter for S. Sudan civilians

    Read more

  • Eurostar train mishap causes 'severe' delays

    Read more

  • Chelsea Clinton announces she's pregnant

    Read more

  • French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali by Islamists

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • After cup defeat, Spanish pundits read last rites for Barcelona

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Ukraine talks open in Geneva as Putin talks tough on TV

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

  • Crunch talks on Ukraine begin in Geneva

    Read more

  • Stagehand of God? Maradona's legendary goal inspires a play

    Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • N. Korea not amused by London hair salon's Kim Jong-un ad

    Read more

  • Real Madrid beat old foes Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

    Read more

Middle east

Lebanese army seizes Salafist base near Sidon

© AFP

Video by Selim EL MEDDEB

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-06-25

Lebanese troops took control Monday of a complex where supporters of a radical Salafist imam were holed during two days of bloody battles that began on Sunday, leaving at least 16 soldiers dead near Lebanon’s third-largest city of Sidon.

Lebanese troops seized control on Monday of the headquarters of a radical Sunni sheikh whose supporters battled the army for two days, killing 16 soldiers, an AFP correspondent reported.

The whereabouts of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir himself were not immediately known after troops entered the complex in Abra, near the southern city of Sidon, the correspondent reported.

The fighting, linked to rising sectarian tensions fanned by the conflict in neighbouring Syria, erupted on Sunday on the outskirts of Sidon and intensified on Monday.

The AFP journalist saw bodies on the ground, some of them scorched.

Troops said it was unsafe to remove them for fear they may have been booby-trapped.

A military source in Sidon said the army found "dozens of bodies of armed men, wearing military fatigues with their weapons lying nearby".

The army "has arrested dozens of people suspected of loyalty to Assir", the source added.

Ambulances took 94 wounded to hospital in the space of 24 hours, Red Cross operations chief Georges Kettani told AFP.

Weapons, including rocket launchers and machineguns, lay abandoned inside the cleric's headquarters, along with military uniforms.

Some of the flats in the complex were still burning as troops moved in.

The area sustained heavy damage in two days of fighting that broke out after Assir's supporters attacked a checkpoint.

Virtually unknown until two years ago, Assir has capitalised on Sunni resentment against the Shiite Hezbollah movement's intervention alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces against the mainly Sunni rebels.

Sixteen troops were killed in the two-day battle with his forces, among them two officers, the army said.

Lebanon on edge: Hezbollah and the Syrian spillover (part 2)
Tuesday has been declared a national day of mourning.

According to the army, the clashes erupted after Assir supporters attacked a checkpoint "for no reason".

A meeting of political, military and security chiefs pledged on Monday that the army would fight until it "finishes with" Assir as a military judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

His brother Amjad had told AFP that "Sheikh Assir will stay in the mosque until the last drop of blood" but there was no immediate word late on Monday on his whereabouts.

Sunni leaders called on the army to work "fairly and thoroughly" to disarm all armed groups in Lebanon, including Hezbollah as well as Sunni groups like Assir's.

The Sunni leaders said they supported the army's operation against Assir.

But they added that the law "needs to apply to all Lebanese equally. The state's institutions are responsible for all Lebanese... without distinction".

Assir has accused the army of siding with Hezbollah and of conniving in its intervention in Syria.

He has encouraged his own followers to head to Syria to fight alongside the rebels against Assad's forces and Hezbollah.

The violence in Sidon followed a clash between Assir's supporters and Hezbollah supporters last week in which one person was killed.

The latest bloodshed prompted a military judge to issue warrants for the arrest of the cleric and 123 of his supporters.

On Sunday, Assir issued a video message saying he was being "attacked" by the military, which he called "sectarian" and accused of supporting Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

He urged soldiers to desert and protesters to block streets, a call heeded by some in the mainly Sunni northern city of Tripoli, the scene of repeated fighting between supporters and opponents of the Damascus government.

An AFP correspondent said masked gunmen deployed in Nur Square in the city centre, blocking roads with burning tyres before throwing several hand grenades and causing panic.

Elsewhere in the city, an army post was set alight near the flashpoint district of Bab el-Tebbaneh, a security source said.

(AFP)

 

Date created : 2013-06-24

  • LEBANON

    Sidon: Lebanon's new hotbed of Sunni-Shiite tension

    Read more

  • THE DEBATE

    FRANCE 24 Debate: Could the conflict in Syria push Lebanon over the edge?

    Read more

  • SYRIA - LEBANON

    Lebanon sees worst clashes yet from Syria conflict

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)