Lebanon News

Hezbollah ally camps out in mosque after Tripoli clashes

Police surround the mosque where Minqara and his supporters held out after violent fighting broke out in Tripoli. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A standoff continued Wednesday night in Tripoli as Sheikh Hashem Minqara, an ally of Hezbollah, refused to leave a mosque which was surrounded by the Army following a clash between his supporters and rival Salafists.

Seven people were wounded Tuesday night during the clash, which erupted in front of the Issa Ibn Maryam Mosque in Tripoli’s Al-Mina district. The injured were a child from the Beddawi family, Bilal Khodr, Ibrahim Marqi, Obeida Fathallah, Ibrahim al-Shalbi, Morad Harb and a man from the Masri family. The victims were all taken to the city’s Islamic Hospital.

A fight inside the mosque among men from the Hosh al-Abeed neighborhood and Minqara’s bodyguards escalated into an hourlong armed clash, sources said. The Army intervened after residents and Salafists trapped Minqara’s supporters inside the mosque.

Minqara remained inside the mosque through Wednesday while the Army took up posts surrounding it, preventing anyone from approaching the scene.

Sheikh Salem Rifaii, a prominent Salafist leader in the area, stressed the need for Minqara to vacate the mosque to prevent further bloodshed.

Meanwhile, sources said the Army has set a 24-hour deadline for those inside to leave. Following the decision of Mufti Malek Shaar, the Army plans to hand over control of the mosque to Dar al-Fatwa.

Minqara has refused to leave the mosque with his supporters and is calling his allies to resolve the situation.

There are concerns that should the Army withdraw from the area, residents and Salafist groups would enter the mosque and the clashes would resume.

Some Salafist groups have called for expelling all Hezbollah allies from the predominantly Sunni city, a source said.

Several Salafist sheikhs have taken credit for operations to “cleanse the Sunni capital of Hezbollah agents,” a source added. Tripoli also witnessed deadly battles this year among residents of the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2012, on page 4.




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