TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Three separate protests were held Monday by groups of young men in Tripoli in response to insults made against Sheikh Omar Atrash during a demonstration the day before, raising tensions in the northern city.
Dozens of men rode through Tripoli in 40 motorcycles chanting “Allahu Akbar” as the sound of heavy gunfire rattled across the neighborhood of Al-Barraniya.
Lebanese Army troops dispatched patrols in the city, the country's second largest, and tried to disperse the crowd. Tripoli has witnessed 19 rounds of deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad since the 2011 uprising in Syria.
Earlier in the day, protesters burnt tires to block a road connecting Al-Qibbeh to Majdalya in the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, causing heavy traffic on the busy street.
A group calling itself "The Muslim Youth" urged residents and Muslim scholars to join its peaceful protest later in the day when they planned to gather at a road connecting Tripoli to the capital.
The protest was in response to another which was held on Sunday night, when several people protested in the Beirut suburb of Hadath against rumors that the judiciary had taken a decision to release Atrash, a Sunni sheikh who was apprehended last month and confessed to having a role in recent car bombings in Lebanon.
Atrash was charged last week with involvement in the Jan. 2 and Jan. 21 suicide car bombings in the southern suburbs. He was also charged with firing rockets from south Lebanon into Israel and a bomb attack that targeted a Hezbollah convoy in the Bekaa Valley last year.
During Sunday’s protest, several people attacked Atrash and asked the judiciary not to release the preacher with one sheikh from al-Msheik family shouting: “God damn you, Omar!"
Lebanon has been rocked by a series of deadly car bombings targeting mostly pro-Hezbollah neighborhoods.
Radical groups fighting in Syria have claimed some of the attacks which they said were in response to Hezbollah's military involvement in the war-torn country.