Assir ready to redeploy gunmen in Sidon

Sunni Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir expressed his willingness to militarily protect himself and his followers from Hezbollah members allegedly stationed near his Sidon mosque.


“[I will] redeploy armed men [around the mosque] if the government fails to protect me and my supporters from Hezbollah’s Shabiha and their weapons,” Assir told As-Siyasah Kuwaiti daily in remarks published on Sunday.


The Sunni cleric added that he will stage daily protests to call for the removal of Hezbollah members from two “apartments” near his Bilal Bin Rabbah Mosque in Sidon’s Abra, where he claims the Shiite party has “put its fighters and arms” to “provoke” his followers who come to the mosque to pray.


“It is the government’s responsibility to protect the Lebanese or else it must resign and make room for self-protection,” Assir said.


Last week, Assir and a number of his armed supporters deployed around his mosque “in self-defense against Hezbollah members who were trying to break in.” However, Lebanese security forces denied these claims.


Further disturbances were caused by the firebrand cleric after he called for a controversial rally in the southern city on Friday to protest against the presence of Hezbollah members near his mosque.


This call was followed by nationwide agitations carried out by Islamists later in the day.


Meanwhile, Assir added that he will not “allow Hezbollah to carry out in Sidon what they did in Beirut on May 7, 2008.”


On the day in question, gunmen led by the Shiite group Hezbollah began a military operation and took over West Beirut following a government decision to shut down the party’s telecommunications network and replace the security chief at Rafiq Hariri International Airport because of his alleged ties to the group.

I will redeploy armed men if the government fails to protect my supporters and I from Hezbollah’s Shabiha.