Army soldiers killed by Salafist gunmen in southern Lebanon

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First the Northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, now the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. The spillover of violence from neighboring Syria hit Sidon hard, leaving at least six army soldiers dead in addition to the death of at least one civilian. The soldiers were killed in clashes with Salafist groups, who according to the army, opened fire on a military checkpoint. The Lebanese army hence went in pursuit of the perpetrators, leading to exchanges of fire which quickly turned the city into a war zone and emptied its streets. The perpetrators are supporters of Salafist figure Ahmad al-Assir, a figure who was unheard of prior to the Syrian crisis. Al-Assir and his supporters are strong advocates of the armed insurgents in Syria and have previously been involved in attacks on the Lebanese army. But the latest clashes are considered the worse round of violence in Sidon since the emergence of al-Assir , who appears to represent a growing trend that has risen with the ongoing crisis in Syria. Prominent figures in the city meanwhile strongly criticized the Lebanese state for being hesitant in dealing with Assir and his supporters. They accuse the Lebanese state of not providing political cover for the army to take the necessary measures. Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman stated that the army has full authority to strike the attackers and called for a high level security meeting. But for many this step is way too late and could have come earlier, which may have prevented the situation from deteriorating and causing deaths in the Lebanese army. What happened here in Sidon shows that the continuation of the Syrian crisis absent a political solution, threatens to engulf the whole region. Lebanon especially is in great danger, due to the countries sectarian diversity.

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