Lebanon conducts investigation into Sidon clashes

July 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 11 (UPI) -- The Lebanese government said Thursday it was conducting a formal investigation into deadly June raids in the coastal city of Sidon.

More than a dozen members of the Lebanese military died in a raid on a coastal compound belonging to Sunni leader Ahmad Assir. Assir is viewed as an outspoken cleric opposed to Hezbollah's role in the fight against rebels in Syria battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A military judge issued arrest warrants for six detainees held in connection with the raids. Judicial authorities in Lebanon said in June they believed the military may have mistreated some of Assir's supporters.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution expressing its concern about the internal tensions in Lebanon. A car bomb this week ripped through a Beirut stronghold of Hezbollah, leading to finger pointing on both sides of the Lebanese political divide.

Syrian influence loomed large over Lebanese affairs until revolution in 2005. Syria's civil war has threatened to engulf Lebanon in recent months.

Assir and 36 of his supporters were charged for the unrest. His whereabouts are unknown. Forensic evidence taken from the Sidon compound indicate Assir wasn't among those killed during the operation.

U.S. diplomats visiting Beirut recently gave assurances they would stand in support of Lebanon's national integrity.

While Hezbollah holds political office in Beirut, it is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

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