BEIRUT: Controversial Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir toured the northern city of Tripoli Sunday and visited a number of Salafist sheikhs and politicians.
Following a meeting with former MP Misbah al-Ahdab, Assir said that he was suspicious about an incident in the eastern town of Arsal last week, which led to the killing of two Army officers.
“Sending Army soldiers to Arsal without informing the town’s dignitaries raises a lot of questions,” said Assir.
Last week, the Army said Sergeant Ibrahim Zahraman, 32, and Captain Pierre Bashalani, 31, were killed in an ambush set up by gunmen in Arsal in what appeared to be a retaliatory operation against the Army after Military Intelligence personnel detained Khaled Hmayyed.
Hmayyed, according to the head of the Military Intelligence Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel, was wanted on several terror charges and was a member of the Nusra Front, an Islamist group fighting alongside the rebels in Syria and affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
Arsal residents claimed that the Army unit wore civilian uniform, and that they didn’t know they were soldiers. However, amateur video footage aired on the LBCI television channel showed the slain soldiers in their military suits.
The case of Arsal has been referred to the military tribunal to begin its probe under Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr.
On his official Facebook page and Twitter account, Assir published photos of himself with founder of the Salafist Movement in Lebanon, Sheikh Dai al-Islam al-Shahal, a shadowy militant sheikh who has played a major role in Tripoli clashes, Houssam al-Sabbagh and a member of the Muslim Scholars’ Committee Sheikh Salem Rafei.
Assir also published photos from his visits with Ahdab and Future MP Moeen Merhebi.
“I call for lifting the military siege off Arsal,” said Assir. “They are arresting elderly and children and such actions are inconvenient for the military command,” said the sheikh.
He added that the residents of Arsal have showed willingness to cooperate with the Army and called for a transparent investigation into the incident.
Following the clashes last week, the military tightened its security measures in Arsal and attempted to arrest those involved in the clashes with the Army.