Lebanese army chasing radical gunmen in Sidon

Lebanese army chasing radical gunmen in Sidon
Tue Jun 25, 2013 19:59:29

Lebanese army commandos went into apartments searching for militants loyal to Salafist Sheikh Ahmad Assir in and around Sidon, south Lebanon.

Life began to return to normal after two days of fierce clashes between the military and Assir extremist gunmen.

During the raids a grenade was tossed at a Lebanese Army patrol vehicle followed by gunfire. There were no reports of casualties, according to a report by The Daily Star.

By midday, the Army's hunt expanded to cover Sidon's old quarter.

No arrests have been made so far, but the Army confiscated weapons found during the raids. Assir’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Plumes of smoke could be seen rising from Assir's complex as the Army destroyed unexploded ordnance from the fighting.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, during a tour of the beleaguered suburb of Arba Tuesday, said there is zero-tolerance for the presence of gunmen.

“From today on armed presence is not acceptable,” Charbel told reporters outside the destroyed complex that served as Assir’s headquarters before the Army seized it Monday.

A security source said troops would not retrieve bodies of some dead fighters because they were lying face-down, possibly indicating that the corpses were wired to explode by Assir supporters before they left the scene of the fighting.

The same method was used in the 2007 war between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.

The Sidon battle broke out Sunday afternoon shortly after loyalists of the radical sheikh attacked a military checkpoint in Abra with rocket-propelled grenades, killing three soldiers.

At least 17 soldiers and over 40 gunmen were killed in clashes that raged for hours as the Army moved to take control of Assir's compound in Abra, a suburb of Sidon.

Sources also reported two civilian casualties. The wounded included nearly 100 troops, 60 Assir supporters and over 50 civilians.

State Prosecutor Saqr Saqr asked the Lebanese Army to begin an investigation into the deadly Sidon incident. Acting police chief Brig. Gen. Roger Salem also discussed the situation in Abra with police officers at the Sidon Serail.

The Daily Star quoted a security source that police agreed to increase patrols across Sidon and into Abra in support of the Lebanese Army’s efforts to restore security and stability.

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