Lebanon has arrested a Sunni Muslim cleric wanted for attacks on the Lebanese army. Ahmad al-Assir, who has been linked to 'Islamic State,' has been on the run since June 2013.
"Lebanese authorities arrested Ahmad al-Assir this morning at the airport. He had changed his appearance and was trying to leave the country," security sources from Beirut told AFP on Saturday.
The hardline cleric was detained at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport as he was trying to fly to Nigeria via Cairo, using a fake Palestinian travel document with a valid visa, the security directorate added.
Assir had been on the run since June 2013, after his armed supporters clashed with the Lebanese army in the southern port city of Sidon. Eighteen Lebanese soldiers were killed in the fighting that worsened sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Clash with government troops
When the fighting was over, weapons and even rocket launchers were found in Assir's headquarters complex, which included a mosque, office buildings and apartment blocks.
In 2014, a Lebanese military prosecutor charged Assir with being involved in the clash with government troops, demanding he face the death penalty. More than 50 of his supporters were also charged with committing crimes against the military.
After the civil war in Syria erupted in 2011, Assir began making headlines by criticizing Lebanon's powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement. He encouraged his supporters to rise up against the movement, which sided with the Syrian regime, and join Syria's mainly Sunni rebels in their fight against Bashar al-Assad.
das/sgb (AP, AFP)