SIDON, Lebanon: A Lebanese Army first sergeant and four gunmen were killed Sunday evening in attacks on two Army checkpoints in the southern city of Sidon, security sources told The Daily Star.
The sources said supporters of fugitive Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, who battled the Army in June, were behind the attacks.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said gunmen in a Range Rover without license plates attacked an Army checkpoint on the Awali river bridge on Sidon’s northern entrance. An Army statement said one of the gunmen threw a hand grenade at the soldiers after they asked the driver to pull over, wounding two soldiers. Other soldiers gunned down the man in response.
Hasan Shouman, an Army soldier, was slightly wounded, while Rabih Maarouf suffered serious wounds. Both were transferred to Hammoud hospital in Sidon. Hisham Iskandarani, a passerby, was also wounded. The Range Rover, however, sped toward downtown Sidon and as soon as it reached the seaside Corniche the remaining gunmen abandoned the car and took refuge in nearby orchards, the sources added. The Army, however, launched a large-scale manhunt and patrolled the coastal city’s streets.
Shortly after, a gunman in a GMC Envoy stepped out of the vehicle and detonated a hand grenade he was carrying at an Army checkpoint along the main road of the village of Majdalyoun, east of Sidon.
The Army statement said 1st Sgt. Samer Rizq was killed in the attack and another soldier was wounded. The troops responded to sources of fire, killing the remaining gunmen inside the vehicle. The sources added that one of the slain gunmen was wearing an explosive belt.
The sources said that Mohammad Jamil al-Zarif and Ibrahim al-Mir, both Lebanese, and a wanted Palestinian, Bahaeddine al-Sayyed, all supporters of Assir, were in the Envoy that attacked the military in Majdalyoun.
The identity of the perpetrators of the Awali attack remain unknown.
In June, deadly clashes broke out between the Army and gunmen loyal to Assir. The confrontation left 18 soldiers and dozens of Assir’s supporters dead.