Video: At least 20 killed in southern Lebanon mosque complex

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At least 20 followers of a radical Islamist cleric were found dead in a mosque complex in the southern town of Sidon following deadly clashes with the Lebanese Army.

The army has taken control of a mosque complex, saying it has lost 12 soldiers in less than 24 hours of clashes. The Islamists were holed up inside the mosque, where radical cleric Ahmad al-Assir gives his Friday sermons.

The fighting began on Sunday when Assir loyalists flared up violence, the army said in a statement.

The controversial Sunni sheikh called on his supporters last week to fire on apartments in Abra that he says house Hezbollah members.

Abra is home to a mosque where Assir leads the main weekly prayers on Fridays. The sheikh believes Hezbollah uses the Abra apartments to keep him under surveillance.

His supporters clashed with Hezbollah in Abra last week in fighting that left one man dead.

Assir was unknown until around two years ago, when he rose to prominence over his radical opposition to Hezbollah and its ally, the Damascus regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria-related tensions have soared in Lebanon, deepening sectarian rifts between Sunnis and Shiites.

Shiite Hezbollah supports Assad’s regime, while the Sunni-dominated opposition backs the rebels fighting it.

During Sunday’s fighting, Assir distributed a video message via mobile phone addressed to his supporters.
“We are being attacked by the Lebanese army,” Assir said, describing the military as “sectarian” and accusing it of supporting Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

“I call on everyone... to cut off roads and to all honorable soldiers, Sunni and non-Sunni, to quit the army immediately,” Assir said in the message.

He urged supporters across Lebanon to flock to Abra “to help defend our religion, our honor and our women.”

(With AFP)

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