Kfar Zebian residents protest against Assir's trip to Faraya

Kfar Zebian residents protest against Assir's trip to Faraya

 January 24, 2013                

BEIRUT: Residents of Kfar Zebian blocked the road leading to Faraya Thursday to protest against a trip by controversial Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir to the ski area, security sources told The Daily Star.

The sources said that around 50 people blocked the road of Kfar Zebian leading to Faraya to protest against the trip. Media reports said that Assir’s trip was for entertainment.

The Army was able to reopen the road ahead of Assir and his companions, but residents once again attempted to block the way.

The road was finally reopened after the more than a two-hour protest and Assir was able to make his way to the ski area, along with his supporters.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel appealed to protesters to clear the way, and called on them to respect the state and Assir’s right to reach the ski area.

Former Minister Farid Haykal al-Khazen also arrived at the scene and asked protesters to clear the road.

However, Khazen said that Assir’s visit was suspicious and said he hoped the Sheikh would cut his trip short.

“We don’t want to shove Kesrouan into unwanted conflicts,” said Khazen.

Haykal, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement, said Wednesday he opposes Assir’s visit to the area and called on him to avoid such trips in the country’s current circumstances.

The Lebanese Forces issued a statement denouncing the attempt to block Assir’s passage to Kesrouan, arguing that all Lebanese have equal rights to visit all Lebanese regions.

“The right of Lebanese people with diverse opinions and affiliations is sacred and there is no justification for blocking roads with fabricated reasons,” said the statement.

The Salafist sheikh earlier told MTV that the Army was working on reopening the road and said there is no political cover for the protesters who tried to block his way.

Assir also called for self restraint and asked his supporters to stay in the buses until the road is totally reopened by the Army.

The sheikh headed to the area Thursday morning, along with hundreds of supporters.

They gathered early Thursday morning outside the Bilal Ben Rabah Mosque in the southern city of Sidon and headed to Faraya in a convoy of more than a dozen cars and buses.

Assir personally supervised the trip’s preparations in the southern city in the early morning hours.

Security measures were enhanced on the road leading to Faraya in an attempt to secure a safe path for the sheikh and his supporters.



Aoun: Asir's Remarks Caused Spat, We Can't Contain Such an Incident Every Time

Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Thursday held security forces responsible for any future security incident, in the wake of the spat that erupted earlier in the day over a controversial visit by Salafist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir and his supporters to a ski resort in the Kesrouan town of Kfardebian.

“We overcame the problem but it would be difficult to overcome such an incident if it was repeated,” Aoun said in a phone interview with his movement's mouthpiece OTV.

“Asir insults all Lebanese figures in his speeches and he attacked me as well as (Hizbullah chief) Sayyed (Hassan) Nasrallah and Speaker (Nabih) Berri several times and these reasons prompted some young men to try blocking the road,” Aoun added.

Around 50 protesters from Kfardebian briefly blocked the main road of the mountain town on Thursday to protest Asir's visit. Several attempts by the army and security forces to allow the buses to cross the barricade left at least two people slightly injured.

The road was eventually reopened after the more than two-hour protest.

“Citizens must not block roads in the face of visitors and security forces must take measures to prevent them. We contained the situation to avoid danger and we rose above the shooting on my convoy and the (Tripoli) attack on (Sports and Youth) Minister (Faisal) Karami because we're trying to contain what's happening,” said Aoun, warning that the recent security incidents are aimed at dragging the country into strife.

“We hold security forces responsible for what's happening on the ground and we cannot contain such an incident every time. We thank Asir for his compassion, but we want his rhetoric and love to be like this all the time, not occasionally,” added Aoun.

“We don't want 'another Ain al-Rummaneh bus' and another civil war in Lebanon and what's important is to prevent its spark. All people are welcome but they must have a clean history,” he went on to say.

Aoun also noted that he had called on supporters not to protest Asir's visit to the ski resort.


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