BEIRUT: Politicians and public demonstrations voiced their support for the Lebanese Army Tuesday after Akkar residents, angry over the killing of a sheikh, asked Army troops to withdraw from the north. Around 200 protestors staged a protest in the Metn area of Dora, raising photos of Army Commander Jean Kahwaji, waving flags and playing patriotic songs in support of the Army.
“The Army can fight with our bodies,” said Charbel Isaac, one of the organizers of the sit-in.
Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Wahed and his companion were killed at an Army checkpoint in Akkar Sunday. A public outcry erupted after Abdel-Wahed’s death. Two people were killed and 11 wounded when groups fought gunbattles in the Tariq al-Jadideh area of Beirut.
Protesters and political leaders emphasized that the Army is critical to preserving the stability of the country.
“No civil war in Lebanon will occur while the Lebanese Army is present which is unified and the doctrine of the Army is to fight the Israeli enemy and to preserve national security,” Labor Minister Salim Jraissati said, according to the National News Agency.
During a trip to Australia, Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel weighed in with support for the Lebanese Army and called for restraint during the investigation into the sheikh’s killing.
Gemayel said he received information that suggested the killing could be more complicated than first thought and that the sheikh’s bodyguards could have shot three Army members before the sheikh was killed.
“We should wait for the outcomes of the investigations and after all the Lebanese Army is our army,” Gemayel told the NNA.
The Lebanese Army issued a statement thanking people for their support but asked demonstrators to remove banners to avoid conflicts in a tense time.
Another sit-in organized by civil society groups for stability took place in the Cola area of Tariq al-Jadideh. Participants wore white cloths symbolizing peace.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 23, 2012, on page 3.