Pro-Syrian regime cleric killed in north Lebanon

Published: Updated:

A Lebanese Sunni cleric close to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad was shot dead in the northern Lebanon town of Tripoli on Tuesday, a security source said.

“Sunni sheikh Saadeddine Ghiyeh was mortally wounded by a bullet to the head while he was getting into his car in the Bahsa neighborhood in the center of town,” the source told AFP.

“Two masked men on a motorbike pulled up alongside him and one of them shot and seriously injured the cleric, who was declared dead upon his arrival in hospital.”

The 43-year-old was a member of the Islamic Action Front, an umbrella grouping of pro-Syrian regime Sunni groups in Lebanon.

He was wounded several months earlier by a grenade that was thrown at him.

He was reportedly close to the head of the Front, Hashem Minkara, who was arrested four days ago on suspicion of involvement in an August 23 double bombing in Tripoli that killed 45 people.

Tripoli is regularly the scene of violence between its Sunni majority and a minority of Alawites -- the religious community from which Syria's President Bashar al-Assad hails.

Violence has usually pitted the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tebbaneh, which backs the Syrian uprising, against the neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, which is populated by Alawites.

The Syrian uprising, which pits a Sunni-dominated rebellion against the Assad government, has inflamed existing sectarian tensions in Lebanon.