Two sheiks killed at army checkpoint

May 20, 2012 at 5:52 PM

AKKAR, Lebanon, May 20 (UPI) -- The Lebanese army withdrew forces from Akkar Sunday after two Muslim preachers were killed at an army checkpoint, the military said.

Sheik Ahmad Abdel-Wahed and Sheik Mohammad Hussein al-Mereb were killed at a checkpoint on the way to a rally, the Daily Star reported. The circumstances of the killings remained unclear.

An hour after the killings, a man by the name of Khaled claiming to be Abdel-Wahed's chauffeur, told reporters the sheik was shot by soldiers when he tried to flee the checkpoint, the report said.

He alleged several vehicles were waved through the checkpoint, but soldiers asked Abdel-Wahed to step out of the car. Khaled allegedly stepped out of the vehicle after a verbal altercation with the soldier, the chauffeur said, after which Abdel-Wahed jumped into the driver's seat and turned the car around. Soldiers then allegedly fired on the vehicle, killing both sheiks.

The army issued a statement shortly after the incident: "[The army] immediately took the initiative to form an investigative committee of senior officers and military police under the supervision of the relevant judiciary."

Following the killings, troops were withdrawn from Akkar, the report said.

Abdel-Wahed and al-Mereb were on their way to a rally to remember the members of the government-loyal militia, the Future Movement, killed in clashes in 2008 with Hezbollah.

When the Lebanese government moved to shut down Hezbollah's telecommunications network by declaring it illegal, Hezbollah retaliated by seizing several neighborhoods under the control of the Future Movement, resulting in street battles that left 11 dead and several wounded.

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