BEIRUT: A Lebanese soldier seriously wounded in weekend clashes between the Army and Salafist gunmen near the southern city of Sidon has died, the military said in a statement Wednesday.
The Army identified the solider as Ibrahim Khodr. The death of the 22-year-old raises the death toll among the military from the two days of fighting on Sunday and Monday to at least 18.
Gunbattles broke out Sunday afternoon shortly after gunmen loyal to Salafist Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir attacked a military checkpoint in Sidon’s eastern suburb of Abra, killing three soldiers and wounding several others.
At least 40 gunmen were killed in the ensuing clashes that raged until Monday afternoon.
Fighting stopped after Lebanese troops seized control of Assir’s compound which houses the Bilal bin Rabah mosque where the radical preacher delivered provocative speeches.
Assir’s whereabouts are unknown.
Military Prosecutor Saq Saqr said Army Intelligence has been asked to probe the Sidon incident.
“The Army Intelligence will interrogate more than 40 detainees to uncover the circumstances of what happened and identify the gunmen who attacked the checkpoint,” Saqr told The Daily Star Tuesday.
Saqr said the investigation would also include some 37 wounded men “who fought the Army and are being treated at Sidon hospitals.”
Saqr had issued a search warrant for Assir and 123 of his followers.
Sources following up on the probe said several non-Lebanese men were found to be engaged in the fight against the Army alongside Assir fighters.