TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) – Lebanese soldiers shot dead a Sunni cleric and a second member of a Lebanese political alliance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in northern Lebanon on Sunday, security sources said.
Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid and Khaled Miraib, members of the March 14 alliance, were shot in their car as they sped through an army checkpoint without stopping, the sources said.
Residents of the northern region of Akkar said that they had blocked off roads to protest against the deaths.
The army confirmed in a statement that the two men had been shot but gave no details.
“The leadership of the army expresses deep regret for the death of the two victims … it will immediately form an investigative committee comprised of senior officers and military police under the relevant court,” the statement said.
Some troops had pulled out of Akkar to prevent tensions from escalating after sporadic fighting over the past week, prompted by sectarian tensions in neighboring Syria, the sources said.
Many Sunni Muslims in Lebanon’s north sympathize with a popular uprising against Assad and say that the Lebanese army is taking orders from Damascus.
Syrian troops were garrisoned in Lebanon until 2005 and Assad is from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, while Syria’s revolt has been led by the majority Sunni Muslims.
Heavy fighting, mainly between government troops and gunmen in a Sunni Muslim district, has rocked Lebanon’s northern port of Tripoli in the past week.
Khaled Daher, a member of parliament from the Future Movement party, which is part of the March 14 alliance, said that the incident was a targeted hit.
“If shots were fired at the tires, we would say there was a mistake. But we consider this a direct targeting from the army,” he told Reuters.
“Frankly, we do not want to see the army here because it works at the service of the Syrian regime,” he said.