Lebanon News

Gunmen kill brother of Arsal Salafi sheikh in Hermel ambush

The abandoned truck of Ali Ahmed Al-Hajiri is seen in Hermel, June 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Rami Bleibel)

HERMEL, Lebanon: A group of gunmen Tuesday killed the brother of a prominent Salafi sheikh from the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal while he was driving along the Hermel road. Ali Ahmad Hujeiri, 52, along with Abdullah Sultan and Muhieddine Hujeiri were attacked in their truck on the way back from the north after dropping off a shipment of stones.

Ahmad Hujeiri is the brother of Sheikh Mustafa Hujeiri, who represents Salafists in Arsal, and Mohammad Ali Hujeiri, the town’s mokhtar.

When the truck approached the outskirts of Hermel, its path was obstructed by a group of armed men who opened fire at them, killing Ahmad Hujeiri immediately. The two others were wounded, and were taken away and later released in a remote mountainous area of Hermel.

Hujeiri’s body was left at the scene of the shooting and found by a passerby who took it to Assi Hospital.

Upon hearing the news, an urgent meeting was held at the municipality building that was attended by Ali Hujeiri and other members of the municipal council and Arsal figures.

The meeting participants issued a statement in which they denounced the killing of Ahmad Hujeiri. They also urged security forces to launch a fair and swift investigation to identify the perpetrators of the attack.

Salafi groups from Arsal deployed across the town Tuesday evening to protest Hujeiri’s death, reports said.

Arsal’s residents, who are mainly Sunni, have expressed staunch support for the Syrian opposition since the uprising began two years ago.

The town hosts hundreds of Syrian refugees opposed to the Assad regime. Thousands fleeing the recent battles in Qusair have taken refuge in the border town, which has been accused several times of acting as a safe haven for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Earlier that day, six rockets fired from the Syrian side of the border struck Hermel, wounding four people identified as Kenan Shoaib, Mahdi Saqr, Ali Dilbani and Fawzia Matar.

Residents of Hermel accused Arsal’s inhabitants of being involved in the rocket attacks, security sources said.

Several properties were damaged by the rockets, which crashed into neighborhoods including Dora, Marah, Maali and Al-Tal, while an orchard in Dora caught fire, and all its fruit trees were destroyed.

Separately, gunmen in a pickup truck tried Thursday to attack an Army checkpoint in Wadi Hmeid near Arsal by opening fire on soldiers at the post. The two gunmen were killed in the resulting clashes, according to the Army.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 12, 2013, on page 3.

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