Qabbani Rejects Army Defection Calls, Warns Sidon Incident Boosts Sedition

Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani rejected on Monday calls on Sunnis to defect the army, saying they promote sedition and leads to chaos.

“It's not allowed to engage in battles with the army under any pretexts,” Qabbani said in a statement.

He appealed in a televised speech on the Lebanese to hold on to the army, stressing that “those who were responsible for the assault on the army should be held accountable.”

Qabbani said that the “security chaos in (the southern city of) Sidon and the (northern city of) Tripoli aims at distracting the army from its main duty along the border.”

At least twelve Lebanese soldiers were killed in less than 24 hours in clashes with supporters of Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir in the Sidon suburb of Abra.

Asir had appealed to his supporters through his Twitter account in other parts of Lebanon to rise to his help, threatening to widen the scale of clashes.

Abra is home to a mosque, Bilal bin Rabah, where Asir leads the main weekly prayers on Fridays. The sheikh believes Hizbullah uses apartments in Abra to keep him under surveillance.

He also says the Lebanese army has provided cover to Hizbullah, whose members are fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops against rebels.

Asir was unknown until around two years ago, when he gained prominence for his opposition to Hizbullah and its ally Assad.

The military urged political leaders in Sidon to choose sides and to stand either alongside the army, or with "those who promote strife and the killing of troops".

The Sidon clashes spilled over other Lebanese regions on Sunday, as roads were blocked in the North, Bekaa and Beirut.

On Monday, gunmen have been roaming the streets of Tripoli in a show of support to al-Asir, reported the National News Agency.

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