After pledging early Monday to “finish with” a Sunni sheikh who the army blames for stoking sectarian violence in the southern city of Sidon, the Lebanese army stormed the mosque where Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir was holed up with 200 to 300 of his followers. Assirr had vowed to stay barricaded in the mosque and fight “until the last drop of blood.”
The Lebanese army reportedly had help from Hezbollah:
Although the Lebanese Army’s special forces units spearheaded the assault on a mosque and compound belonging to Sheikh Ahmad Assir, a Salafist cleric who had holed up there with 200 to 300 of his followers, it became evident today that they received some assistance from Hezbollah’s battle-hardened fighters.
“Today we are doing surgery,” says Haj, a local commander of Hezbollah forces in an area on the eastern edge of Abra, the hilltop Sidon neighborhood where Sheikh Assir’s mosque is located. “We are removing a cancerous gland in a quick clean operation to cure the city.”
Sunni clerics elsewhere in the country had already been blasting the army for failing to reach a truce that would put an end to the bloodshed, and blamed government officials for conspiring with Hezbollah to “commit a massacre” against Sunnis.
The Iran-backed Shiite terror group is being widely criticized for entering the Syrian conflict on the side of the embattled Shiite-backed Bashar al-Assad regime against Sunni rebels seeking the regime’s overthrow. The Los Angeles Times this weekend describing bluntly
describing the group’s actions as “threaten[ing] to spread holy war.”
[Photo: Citypeek / Wiki Commons]