Assir on a bicycle during the sit-in in Sidon. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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Brassy and insolent, the firebrand Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir had a remarkable talent for offending the conscience.Assir was an iconoclast, condemning Hezbollah at moments it had to appear invincible, and mocking the Future Movement at a moment it grasped around for relevance. Then, in 2013, his supporters attacked an Army outpost near Sidon, sparking a battle that drew in Hezbollah and left at least 57 dead.To his many other unflattering titles, it was added that Assir was a violent insurrectionist, as well. Assir was the extremist imam of the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, in the Abra suburb of Sidon, which he helped found in 1997 .He became a permanent fixture after he delivered a particularly toxic sermon directed at Hezbollah and Iran, to the effect of galvanizing young men throughout Lebanon. Seizing on his renown, Assir led a campaign to have Hezbollah disarm, a cause long before abandoned by the Sunni political establishment. It was clear that Assir was on a collision course with Hezbollah and its leader, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah.A gunfight in 2012 between the Hezbollah-affiliated Resistance Brigades and Assir's supporters near Ain al-Hilweh left two dead.
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