BEIRUT: A suspect arrested following clashes between the Army and gunmen loyal to Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir admitted during investigations he had transferred quantities of weapons to the complex once controlled by the fiery preacher, the military said Tuesday.
“During the investigation with [Ghali] Hadara, he admitted he transferred large amounts of arms and ammunition to the so-called security perimeter in Abra,” the Army said in a statement, referring to the eastern neighborhood of Sidon, south Lebanon.
“The last [weapons’ transfer] took place two days before the attack against the Army checkpoint in the said [Abra] area,” it added.
The clashes erupted on June 23 after gunmen loyal to Assir opened fire on an Army checkpoint situated near a complex controlled by the fiery sheikh in Abra. The initial attack on the checkpoint led to the death of three soldiers. Eighteen soldiers and at least 28 of Assir’s fighters were killed in the two days of fighting that ended with the military seizing control of the Abra complex.
Assir’s fate is unknown.
The arrest of Hadara, who hails from Tripoli and is believed to be a supporter of Assir, stirred protests in the northern city and aggravated Salafist sheikhs who accused the Army earlier Tuesday of conspiring with Hezbollah against Sunni youths.
The Army said Hadara was arrested on June 28 at a Kesrouan resort. During the arrest, the military said it also seized items used for making explosives. The items were electronic detonators and fuses, the Army said.
Hadara, according to the Army, also appeared in footage alongside a partisan of Assir, singer Fadl Shaker. In the footage, the Army said, Shaker admitted to killing two soldiers during the Abra clashes.
Salafist sheikhs met earlier Tuesday in the north of the country and slammed the Army’s conduct in both Tripoli and Abra. They accused the military of conspiring with Hezbollah against “Sunni youth.”
In a statement following the clashes in Abra, the Army said it fought alone against Assir’s fighters. Hezbollah has also denied fighting alongside the military.