Lebanon’s Army Tested by Clashes

banonOn Monday, the city of Sidon, the third largest in Lebanon, became a battle zone, as its military fought followers of a Sunni Muslim cleric that were heavily armed and holed up inside a mosque.

Residents from the southern port city fled grenade explosions and machine gun fire that hit the coastal area creating one of the deadliest times of violence, which has tested the ability of the weak government to contain the civil war in Syria from over flowing into their country.

Reports from government officials said that 16 soldiers had been killed with another 50 wounded during two days of fighting with Ahmad al-Assir’s armed followers. Al-Assir is a maverick sheik whose quick rise highlights the deep frustration amongst many of the Lebanese who are resentful of the power of the Shiites, led by Hezbollah the militant group.

Over 20 armed supporters of al-Assir were killed, said on official. The strong battle the fighters backing al-Assir were putting up is an indication of how aggressive the extremists Sunnis have become inside Lebanon. They have built their aggression and anger towards the regime in Syria, but Hezbollah as well.

Residents in Sidon panicked upon hearing the explosion from grenades and machine gun fire. Also reported were outages of both water and electricity.

Snipers who were allied to the clerics took over a number of rooftops to terrorize civilians. Many residents were requesting evacuation from the most heavily populated areas around the mosque where al-Assir is hold up.

Military officials appealed to the armed followers to put down their weapons. The government said they would continue with their operation until the country’s security was completely restored.

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