Sousan Rejects Calls for Deserting Army, All Weapons on Domestic Scene amid Pro-Asir Abra Demo

Sidon Mufti Sheikh Salim Sousan condemned on Friday the recent clashes in the southern city, demanding that the state assume its responsibilities in following through with the investigation in the unrest.

He said: “We reject the use of arms on the internal scene in Lebanon regardless of which side they belong to.”

“We also oppose call for soldiers to defect from the army,” he declared during the sermon of the Friday Muslim prayers that was held at the Zaatari mosque in Sidon.

“We condemn the assault on the army and the resulting deaths in the clashes that followed,” he told worshipers that included a number of officials, such as the head of the Mustaqbal bloc MP Fouad Saniora.

In an indirect reference to Hizbullah and its alleged participation in the city's recent clashes, Sousan said: “We condemn the raids and arrests carried out by some armed groups and hold the state responsible for this development.”

“Sidon is the capital of the South and it has offered martyrs, confronted the Israeli enemy, opened its pockets and home to the residents of the South” during the July 2006 war, he added.

“Sidon is a city of diversity. It is not one of sectarian and violence,” he said.

“Sidon abides by the law and its role as the symbol of the country's salvation should be restored,” demanded Sousan.

“I call on its residents to preserve the city and its national principles,” he stated.

The city has the right to know the whereabouts of the wounded and those arrested, and the numbers of those killed, he declared.

“In the name of the Sidon residents and Ulemas, we reject oppression and humiliation against the city by any side and we hold the state responsible for ensuring our rights otherwise protesters will take to the streets,” Sousan warned.

He also demand a transparent investigation in the video that showed soldiers abusing a man suspected of supporting Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir.

Soon after the prayers, supporters of al-Asir staged a demonstration in Sidon and Beirut's Tariq al-Jadideh neighborhood.

Some of the Sidon demonstrators attempted to enter the Bilal bin Rabah mosque where al-Asir was based, but they were prevented by the army that fired gunshots into the air in order to disperse the angry protesters.

Eighteen soldiers were killed and 50 were wounded in clashes between the army and armed supporters of al-Asir in Sidon on 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.

The Ulemas accused on Wednesday Hizbullah fighters of taking part in the battles alongside the army, despite assertions by various officials that the army acted alone in combating the gunmen.

The army on Thursday handed over a group of soldiers accused of abusing a detainee to the military police for questioning, a military source and the state-run National News Agency said.

The move came after amateur video emerged showing a group of soldiers humiliating, beating and kicking a man suspected of supporting al-Asir.

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.