Sunni Cleric Killed at Akkar Army Checkpoint, Muftis Call General Strike across Lebanon

The muftis and clerics of Akkar on Sunday stressed that they will not allow any side to stir a strife between citizens and the military institution and called for a general strike across Lebanon, following the shooting death of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahed at an army checkpoint in the Akkar town of al-Kweikhat.

“We call for a general strike tomorrow across Lebanon and for three days of mourning over the slain sheikh,” said a statement issued by Akkar’s muftis and clerics.

“The department (of Islamic endowment in Akkar), which is known for its support for the state and which has all respect and appreciation for the military institution in all its components, will not allow any side to stir a strife between citizens and the military institution,” said the statement.

“The department of Islamic endowment in Akkar calls for a probe to prevent the recurrence of such an abhorrent act and for slapping the culprits with the severest punishment possible,” added the statement.

The department said Abdul Wahed and his companion were killed at the hands of “those who are supposed to protect people’s lives and security,” describing the incident as a “dangerous precedent.”

It warned of “some extremist members inside the military institution who are harming the military institution through their acts and seeking to create a rift between the military institution and citizens.”

A security official said army troops shot dead Abdul Wahed when his convoy failed to stop at the checkpoint in al-Kweikhat. He told Agence France Presse that another religious figure in Abdul Wahed’s car, Mohammed Hussein Merheb, was also killed.

Mustaqbal bloc MP Khaled al-Daher meanwhile said that army troops deliberately opened fire at the clergyman, reported LBC.

Abdul Wahed was scheduled to make a speech at a rally that was scheduled to be held at Halba in the North. The event has since been called off. The Jamaa Islamiya later issued a statement denying its involvement in the rally.

The Army Command issued a statement saying “state commissioner to the military court Judge Saqr Saqr inspected the shooting scene and the available evidences and started interrogating the members of the army checkpoint to unveil the incident’s circumstances and take the necessary legal measures.”

And following an emergency meeting for Akkar’s lawmakers, the MPs called on President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Najib Miqati and the Army Command to “take all the relevant measures against the officers and soldiers who committed this crime.”

“The government bears the moral responsibility for the incident and we demand an instant probe into this crime. Any probe conducted by army personnel is rejected because they are accused of this crime,” said the MPs in a statement recited by Daher.

The lawmakers called on the residents of Akkar and the North to “practice self-restraint in order to prevent civil strife.”

Answering a reporter’s question, Daher said blocking roads by protesters “does not serve the interests of citizens,” adding that efforts were being exerted to reopen all roads.

One of Abdul Wahed’s companions later recounted the details of the shooting to LBC, saying that the vehicle stopped at the checkpoint where some army troops insulted Abdul Wahed, who said that he will no longer be heading to the rally.

He was then prevented from turning the car around and came under fire by the army members, added the clergyman’s companion who was not named.

A security source later told MTV that the army checkpoint in al-Kweikhat came under gunfire and that it was not the first to shoot at Abdul Wahed’s vehicle as had been reported.

PM Miqati immediately ordered the formation of an investigation committee to look into the killing. He also called a broad security meeting that was scheduled to be held at 6:30 pm at the Grand Serail.

Miqati earlier held talks on the matter with Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel. He also contacted Daher, hoping that all sides would cooperate to ensure that calm is restored.

Earlier on Sunday, Daher said no warning shots were fired as the vehicle crossed the checkpoint. He instead revealed that Abdul Wahed was shot in the head and neck, in a clear sign he was deliberately being targeted.

“Why was he attacked?” asked the MP. He accused some members of the army of committing “militia-like practices,” adding that some of them were allegedly keen on serving Syrian interests.

“It’s clear that those supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad are keen on weakening us, but we will not waver in defending Lebanon,” he declared.

“An order was made to kill Abdul Wahed,” he remarked angrily. He continued: “It’s unfortunate that the murder took place at the hands of some army members.”

“We hold the army and its commander responsible for this incident,” he stressed.

“Some members of the army are bent on killing us. Such army violations are taking place in various regions in Lebanon,” he noted.

This is an act that is shameful to the army and the Lebanese people, he went on to say.

Furthermore, Daher accused the government of serving Syrian interests, stating: “This government does not represent the Lebanese people.”

“They are conspiring against us. This government is a Syrian agent and it is seeking to harm Lebanon’s stability,” he continued.

Protesting the incident, angry youths blocked the Halba-Akkar road and most of Tripoli’s roads.

Later, the Army Command announced in a statement the formation of an investigation committee to look into the Abdul Wahed's death.

The Syrian Social National Party had staged a separate rally in Halba on Sunday to commemorate victims of the “Halba massacre” that was committed during the May 7, 2008 clashes.

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