Raids Ongoing in Abra amid Reports that Asir Did Not Leave Sidon

Army raids are ongoing in Abra neighborhood of the southern city of Sidon to look for gunmen who supported Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir in his clashes with the military institution, amid reports that the Imam of the Bilal bin Rabah mosque might have never left the city.

MTV reported on Wednesday that cautious calm is prevailing in Sidon, except for the sound of detonating explosive devices left in the battlefield.

It added that people coming to inspect their houses are prevented from approaching the area, as the army "has not yet finished its search for explosives and gunmen."

"Army patrols are roaming Abra and its surroundings and a checkpoint erected in the area is inspecting all vehicles passing in the neighborhood,” MTV noted.

"Men arrested during the clashes are being subjected to strict investigation,” the same source pointed out.

Al-Manar television revealed that a large number of rocket-propelled grenades were found in al-Asir's security zone, and that “offices, chairs and even water bottles were booby-trapped.”

Regarding al-Asir's fate, security sources told MTV that "the cleric's phone calls are being tracked."

"Investigation so far revealed that al-Asir is using an international number and that he is still in Sidon,” MTV announced.

Meanwhile, OTV reported that a Sidon figure was communicating with al-Asir “until the last hours of the battle,” revealing also that a Turkish mediator contacted the cleric and asked him to leave the port city and head to the north, “but no to (the northern city of) Tripoli.”

OTV stressed: “Investigation is ongoing and al-Asir did not head to Syria or to Tripoli.”

In another report, security sources told LBCI television that "al-Asir was still in he security zone at 7:00 pm on Sunday."

They elaborated: “A female neighbor of the cleric told investigators that he (al-Asir) came to the building around 6:00 pm Sunday and accompanied her to the basement where a group of people were hiding.”

"Al-Asir stayed with us for an hour and then he left,” she remarked.

"The siege around the zone was not completed yet on Sunday night, and there is a possibility that the cleric left the block along with 25-40 people during these hours,” the security sources explained.

They said, however, that “he might have never left the southern city and its surroundings.”

"Despite Palestinians denying that al-Asir has entered (the refugee camp of) Ain el-Helweh, and promising not hide him, we still have doubts that he might be there or in one of the city's mosques,” they said.

"And at Sunday night, he might have been transferred to another city.”

Al-Asir is being tracked through monitoring phone lines that were in his possession and other lines that he might have access to, the sources informed LBCI.

"We are also keeping an eye on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

At least 17 soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in the clashes with the armed supporters of al-Asir in Sidon between Sunday and Monday.

More than 20 of al-Asir's supporters were killed, according to a security official.

Dozens of them were also arrested, but there was no sign of the cleric.

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