Lebanese forces strong despite Sidon losses

June 25, 2013 at 10:45 AM

SIDON, Lebanon, June 25 (UPI) -- Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Tuesday he was thankful for the role the military played in ensuring national security despite huge losses.

Lebanese forces captured a compound held by Sunni leader Ahmad Assir, who was barricaded along with his gunmen since last weekend in the coastal city of Sidon. At least 17 soldiers were killed during the fighting.

Charbel said following a national security council meeting Tuesday the military suffered huge losses but was able to restore calm to the region through "great efforts."

"We have to take advantage of the army's victory," he was quoted by Lebanon's official National News Agency as saying. "We refuse to let the martyrs' sacrifices be vain."

Lebanon broke free of Syrian dominance after the Cedar Revolution in 2005, but its national security has been tested by Syria's civil war.

Assir is seen as a key opponent of Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, which has guerrilla forces fighting in Syria alongside supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned by the violence in Lebanon and condemned attacks on Lebanese forces.

All parties to the crisis in Lebanon are reminded of their "responsibility to avoid conflict and uphold the principles of mutual respect and coexistence in order to preserve Lebanon's national unity," a Monday statement attributed to Ban said.

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