Monday, May 21, 2012

Lebanese know how to throw a good party: Two dead in Beirut clashes after killing of anti-Assad cleric

Sunni gunmen chant slogans during the funeral of Sheikh Ahmad Abdel Wahed and his religious companion in their hometown al-Bireh, north of Beirut on May 21, 2012. Army troops shot dead the Sunni cleric on May 20, when his convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in north Lebanon, that was set up following a week of intermittent clashes in the northern port of Tripoli between Sunnis hostile to the Syrian regime and Alawites who support President Bashar al-Assad. (Getty Images)
ALBIREH, Lebanon (Reuters) - Hundreds of Islamist gunmen fired in the air on Monday at the funeral of a Sunni Muslim cleric whose killing ignited street battles and brought the bloodshed from Syria's 14-month-old uprising spilling across the border into Lebanon.

Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, an opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was buried in northern Lebanon a day after he was shot dead at a Lebanese army checkpoint in a part of that country where Sunni sympathy for Syria's rebels and the uprising against Assad is particularly strong.

Demonstrators blocked roads and burned tires in the northern province of Akkar, and similar protests in Beirut gave way to firefights with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The clashes on Monday between gunmen from the Future Movement, loyal to anti-Assad former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and members of a pro-Assad party, left two dead and was the worst unrest in Beirut since sectarian fighting brought Lebanon to the brink of civil war in 2008.

Violence flared later in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli where two residents in Jebel Mohsen district, home to minority Alawites who support Assad, were wounded in rocket fire. Eight people were killed in Tripoli last week in fighting between Sunni Muslims, Alawites and the Lebanese army.