A Sunni cleric who backed the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad has been shot dead by Lebanese soldiers at a checkpoint in northern Lebanon.
Lebanon's army says it is investigating the fatal shooting of the Sunni cleric Ahmed Abdel Wahed near the northern city of Tripoli, where over the past week local Sunni Muslims fought battles with local Alawite supporters of Syria's President Assad.
The clashes in Lebanon's second-largest city left 10 people dead and raised fears that the conflict in Syria could spill over into neighboring Lebanon, where its politics is divided into pro- and anti-Damascus camps.
Deep regret, says army
On Sunday protestors blocked roads in northern Lebanese towns as word spread that the cleric and his aide Khaled Miraib had been killed. The army expressed "deep regret" over the cleric's death. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati, a Sunni Muslim from Tripoli, appealed for calm.
"Anything that happens in Syria is important as it has repercussions in Lebanon," Miqati had said earlier in the week.
Lebanese security sources quoted by the news agency AFP said Abdel Wahed's convoy had failed to stop at a checkpoint close to Koueikhat town in the Lebanese region of Akkar.
Lebanese opposition chief Saad al-Hariri called on "residents of Akkar to remain claim, and not to fall into the trap of igniting sectarian tensions."
But, Sunni parliamentarian and another member of the anti-Assad opposition Khaled al-Daher in remarks on local television accused the Lebanese government of being a "collaborator government for Syria and Iran."
Syrian troops were stationed in Lebanon until 2005. Assad is from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Syria's revolt has been led by majority Sunni Muslims.
Detonation near senior UN observers
In Syria, meanwhile, a roadside bomb has detonated about 150 meters of a United Nations convey carrying leading observer Major General Robert Mood and visiting UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.
They were touring Douma, a suburb of Damascus, when the blast engulfed a pickup vehicle parked near a security checkpoint.
UN observers accompanied by journalists were told that gunmen had targeted two military buses in Douma earlier on Sunday, wounding more than 30 security agents. After pro-democracy protests in March last year, Douma became the focus of an armed uprising against Assad's rule.
Assassination claim denied by Assad's inner circle
Two high-ranking Syrian officials denied their own assassination on Sunday as well as those of four other regime stalwarts.
Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar presented himself at a press conference and former defense minister Hassan Turkmani appeared in an interview run by state-run Syrian TV.
Turkmani said the claim made in an amateur video and broadcast by pan-Arab satellite television channels amounted to "blatant lies."
The United Nations now has more than 200 unarmed observers inside Syria but a cease-fire that was supposed to start last month has never really taken hold.
ipj/ng (dpa, AFP, Reuters)