Thursday, July 06, 2006

Alleged Syrian involvement in Lebenon

This has just come in from Farid at RPS.

One person was killed and five were wounded on Tuesday in Jahliyeh, a village located south east of Beirut in the Shouf region of Mount Lebanon, when supporters of Wiam Wahab, a pro-Syrian politician tried to antagonize the supporters of anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

Washington DC - July 4, 2006/Ya Libnan, Naharnet/ -- Shooting erupted when members of Wahab's Tawhid Movement and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) were plastering political posters in the main square of the village.

The National News Agency said a gunman from the Abu Diab family then opened fire killing a man it identified as Muayed al Ayass and wounding five others. Future TV said the shooter was one of Wahab's supporters.

Acting Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat did not say who was responsible for the shooting but confirmed that all the casualties were among Jumblatt 's followers.

"Until now no one has been arrested. The gunmen have escaped to an unidentified location and the army and security forces are chasing them down," he told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.

Fatfat, who described the situation in the area as still "tense," said: "It is obvious that certain parties are doing their best to incite trouble”, in reference to Syria and its allies.

He said Jumblatt has given orders to his followers to contain the situation "to avoid being dragged into strife."

The clash within the Druze community follows months of tension between Jumblatt, a major anti-Syrian figure who is considered the most prominent Druze leader, and Wahab, a staunch Syrian ally who is trying to challenge Jumblatt' s influence over the sect with funding and support from Iran and Syria.

In April, Wahab 's bodyguards shot and wounded three people attending a funeral in the Hasbaya region during a brawl over his presence there.

Some of the residents of the mainly-Druze Khalwat al Kfeir village objected to Wahab 's presence there and clashed with his security guards who then fired into the air to disperse the crowd.

MP Wael Abou Faour, a member of Jumblatt 's parliamentary bloc, at the time accused Wahab of acting on Syria's behalf to ignite an inter-Druze strife and threatened to press charges against him.

Wahab also threatened to press charges against Abou Faour and Jumblatt for what he said was as an attempt on his life by the two politicians' followers.

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