[QODLink]
Middle East

Deadly fighting rages in Lebanon

Residents flee scene of violence as 15 soldiers are killed in continuing clashes with followers of Sunni leader.

Last Modified: 24 Jun 2013 13:20
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

At least 15 Lebanese soldiers are now known to have died in clashes between government troops and followers of a Sunni sheikh, who is opposed to the Shia movement Hezbollah and its involvement in the war in Syria.

The clashes which broke out on Sunday between the army and supporters of Ahmad al-Assir continued overnight in Sidon, reported Al Jazeera's Nour Samaha on Monday.

The fighting raged around Abra and the Ain el Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, she said.

Members of the Jund al Sham and Fatah al Islam armed groups have joined the battle, she added, reporting from a village several kilometres away from Sidon.

She said clashes had "intensified in both areas mentioned above, with heavy weaponry being used".

"The sound of explosions and gunfire can be heard several kilometres outside Sidon. The army is preventing anyone from leaving the Palestinian camps which are located in Sidon," she said.

"Roads are blocked entering into Sidon from the south, preventing people from reaching Beirut. Checkpoints have been erected, some by the Amal movement [pro-Hezbollah party], to prevent people from going through Sidon - they have been turning people back."

She said masked gunmen had moved to Sidon's seaside road, and there were reports of further sniper attacks.

Intense fighting

On Sunday, Assir's supporters had surrounded an army checkpoint in Abra, on the outskirts of Sidon, where a vehicle transporting other supporters of the Sunni cleric had been stopped, a security source said.

Captain Samer Tanios was one of those killed in Sunday's clashes

The army were fired on, and they returned fire, the source added.

For hours afterwards, intense battles engulfed the district, closing down businesses and forcing residents to flee with their children.

The army called on the country's politicians to take a stand.

Last week, the Sunni sheikh called on supporters to fire on apartments in Abra that he claimed housed Hezbollah members.

Abra is home to a mosque where Assir leads main Friday prayers. The sheikh believes Hezbollah uses the Abra apartments to keep him under surveillance.

His supporters clashed with Hezbollah in Abra last week that left one man dead.

Assir rose to prominence about two years ago over his opposition to Hezbollah and its ally, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria-related tensions have soared in Lebanon, deepening sectarian rifts between Sunnis and Shias.

415

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
Remnants of deadly demonstrations to be displayed in a new museum, a year after protests pushed president out of power.
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.