TRIPOLI, Lebanon: The Arab Democratic Party issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Lebanese authorities Thursday following the assassination of a party official in the restive northern city of Tripoli.
The killing of Abdel-Rahman Diab triggered violence in the city, leaving two people killed and five others wounded by sniper fire.
Secretary-General Rifaat Eid said if Diab's killers were not arrested by the deadline, "Tripoli will bear the consequences."
“We can’t remain silent anymore. If the government doesn’t arrest the shooters in 48 hours, Tripoli will be directly targeted,” Eid warned. “We will deal firmly with the issue and let Tripoli bear the consequences.”
Diab, an official with the pro-Assad ADP, was gunned down by masked gunmen on a small motorcycle as he drove his Chevy along the coastal Mina highway at dawn, according to security sources.
He died instantly from 12 bullets that pierced his chest, head and neck, the sources told The Daily Star. His bullet-riddled body was taken to Tripoli’s Islamic Hospital.
Diab was the father of one of the detained suspects in last year's twin mosque bombings in Tripoli. The August car bombings killed 47 people and wounded more than 300 more.
Youssef Diab along with two others was arrested in October in connection to the attacks.
As news of Diab’s death spread across the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, ADP fighters began sniping at their rival neighborhoods of Mallouleh and Mankoubin.
Two men were shot dead by sniper fire following the fatal shooting of the ADP official. Five other people, including a woman, were also wounded, the sources said.
Among the fatalities was Mohammad Jamal, a truck driver.
Sunni militia leaders, who have engaged in intermittent clashes with the ADP, appeared to try and defuse the situation, calling on young fighters to withdraw and allow the Army to contain the situation
“We call on all our youth not to slide into the battle and let the Lebanese Army respond to the attacks,” a statement signed by Saad Masri on behalf of all local militia leaders said.
"We ask all our youth at the battle fields not to be dragged into a battle that serves the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, and inflicts material and physical losses for us.”
Prime Minister Tammam Salam denounced the assassination and instructed the Lebanese Army to act “quickly and decisively” to apprehend the perpetrators, vowing “zero tolerance” for any attempts to undermine Tripoli’s security.
By mid-morning, almost all public and private schools across Tripoli had shut down over fears the security situation could deteriorate.
The Lebanese University also cancelled all exams scheduled for Thursday in the wake of the violence.