Monday, 21 May 2012

North Lebanon: Tension, Political and Media Instigation on the Rise

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Clashes in Beirut after Lebanese sheikh killed by army

Published Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lebanese soldiers take position in Tripoli's Sunni neighborhood
of Bab al-Tabbaneh on 17 May 2012. (Photo: AFP – Joseph Eid)

Clashes broke out in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Sunday night, after a Lebanese sheikh was shot and killed by the country's army in the northern district of Akkar.
Six people were injured following clashes near the Arab University in the city, the National News Agency (NNA) said.

"The open fire resulted from clashes that broke out between 2 local factions, which later escalated into using bombs and machine guns," the report said.

Elsewhere a number of roads were blocked in the Verdun area after protesters set fire to tires.
However the area was quiet by midnight, an Al-Akhbar correspondent confirmed.

Earlier in the day major Lebanese politicians demanded an investigation into the killing of Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Wahed.

Abdel-Wahed and his companion Muhammad Hussein Merheb were killed in the town of Halba, the NNA said.

Both Prime Minister Najib Mikati and leader of the opposition Future Movement Saad Hariri called for an investigation into the killings.

The NNA article claimed Abdel-Wahed had been heading to a sit-in protest organized by the Future Movement but had failed to stop at a military checkpoint.

"The armed convoy of Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Wahed came across a Lebanese Army checkpoint, and refused to abide by the Army's instruction and stop, what forces (sic) soldiers to shoot in its direction," it said, though the claim was not immediately verifiable.

The army confirmed in a statement that the two men had been shot but gave no details.

"The leadership of the army expresses deep regret for the death of the two will immediately form an investigative committee comprised of senior officers and military police under the relevant court," the statement said.

Some troops had pulled out of Akkar to prevent tensions from escalating after sporadic fighting over the past week, prompted by sectarian tensions in neighboring Syria.

Khaled Daher
Khaled Daher, a member of parliament from the anti-Syrian Future Movement party, said that the incident was a targeted hit.

"If shots were fired at the tires, we would say there was a mistake. But we consider this a direct targeting from the army," he told Reuters.

"Frankly, we do not want to see the army here because it works at the service of the Syrian regime," he said.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati offered his condolences and said he would be in contact with the Ministers of Defense and Interior to uncover more about the situation.

He added that he had called Daher to discuss the situation and would look into setting up an investigation.

Future Movement leader Saad Hariri also called for an independent probe into the killings.
Following the shooting there were increased tensions in the area, with many shops not opening for business and streets closed off.

Residents also burned tires on the streets, the NNA said.

Any violence following the deaths could threaten a tentative truce in the north of the country.
The arrest of a prominent Islamist last week led to a week of skirmishes between Sunni and Alawi armed groups in the country's second city of Tripoli.

An army-imposed truce appeared to hold over the weekend, but the Akkar killings could undermine such a deal.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters)

North Lebanon: Tension, Political and Media Instigation on the Rise

Local Editor

Tension in the northern Lebanese region of Akkar has been on the rise since Sunday morning hours, following the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahed at an army checkpoint in the Akkar town of al-Kweikhat.

According to sources, several men obsequious to MP Khaled al-Daher and the Future Party have cut-off the Tripoli International Highway Sunday afternoon, in the area of Al-Tebaneh between Abu Ali and Al-Maloula Roundabouts.

Also, another group of men ventured into cutting-off the roads leading to "Abdel-Hamid Karami Square" in Tripoli.

In parallel, a number of Future party MPs and officials launched an unprecedented campaign against the Lebanese army on the backdrop of the incident. As well, several media streams fueled the incitement, launching stances against the Lebanese army, accusing it of "killing and murder".
In details, security officials reported that Abdul Wahed's convoy refused to abide by the Army's instruction and stop, what forced soldiers to shoot in its direction. Abdul Wahed was accompanied by another religious figure, Mohammed Hussein Merheb, who was also killed.

A Sunni Emirate in the North
A few hours to the incident, armed men of the Future party supporters poured to the streets, in obedience to calls made by MPs Khaled al-Daher and Moeen Merehbi. The two Future MPs had called on the people to expel the Lebanese army and replace it with the Internal Security Forces in the region.

For its part, the Lebanese Army directorate issued a statement in which it expressed regret to the painful incident in which the Sheikh and his companion were killed. It also stated the army has already launched investigations into the incident.

The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, appeared in a press conference at night to declare that the Lebanese judiciary authorities are following up on the investigations into the incident, stressing that those proven responsible will be severely punished. He expressed his regret to what he described an incident "painful to all Lebanon". He also called on the [Future Party] and the Lebanese media to stop fueling the situation, and play a major role in easing the current tensions.

MP al-Daher had claimed "There are some who covertly support the Syrian army, and want to weaken us," adding "we will not accept this savage practice some Lebanese army intelligence members have conducted against us."

Source: al-Intiqad, translated and edited by

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