Lebanon says fugitive cleric Ahmed al-Assir detained

Cleric wanted over deadly clashes with the army is reportedly arrested at Beirut airport as tried to flee the country.

Ahmed al-Assir
Assir shot to fame at the start of 2012 with his fiery rhetoric against the Syrian administration, and his denouncement of Hezbollah [EPA]

Lebanese authorities say they have arrested a fugitive Sunni cleric who was wanted on suspicion of being involved in a deadly shootout with government troops last year.

Two senior security officials say Ahmed al-Assir was detained on Saturday at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport as he was trying to flee the country in a disguise and using a forged passport.

Security sources added that Assir, who had shaved his beard, was trying to fly to Egypt.

Who is Lebanon’s Ahmed al-Assir?

In June 2013, 12 Lebanese soldiers were killed when they stormed a mosque complex belonging to Assir in the southern city of Sidon.

In 2014, a military judge recommended prosecutors seek death sentences for Assir and 53 others, including former singer Fadel Shaker.

He and his associates were accused of “having formed armed groups that attacked an institution of the state, the army, killed officers and soldiers, took explosive materials and light and heavy weapons and used them against the army”.

He has been on the run since then.

Assir’s supporters accused the army of siding with the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria alongside the government against a Sunni-led rebellion.

He encouraged his supporters to join Syria’s Sunni rebels and to rise up against Hezbollah.

Source: News Agencies