Salfist Sheikh Assir admits to funding Lebanese militants

Published August 27th, 2015 - 04:25 GMT
Notorious Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir was detained by Lebanese authorities as he was trying to board a plane to Nigeria. (AFP/File)
Notorious Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir was detained by Lebanese authorities as he was trying to board a plane to Nigeria. (AFP/File)

Notorious Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir admitted Thursday to funding a group operated by extremist cleric Sheikh Khaled Hoblos that was involved in armed battles against the Lebanese military, a judicial source told The Daily Star.

Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghaida questioned Assir and issued an arrest warrant against him on charges of funding Hoblos and offering his group logistical and arms support.

The judicial source said that Assir confessed to all the charges against him and gave the judge a detailed testimony of his links with Hoblos and the involvement of his supporters in armed clashes against the Lebanese military in the north.

Abu Ghaida also questioned Lebanese nationals Khaled Ozor and Hussam al-Rifai but decided to release them after the investigation failed to prove a connection to Assir's activities.

On Wednesday, Military Court Judge Dany Zeani filed new charges against Assir, Ozor and Rifahi, referring the case to Judge Abu Ghaida.

They were charged with the formation of an armed gang with the purpose of undermining state authority, the attempted murder of soldiers and funding a armed group operated by Hoblos.

Hoblos was arrested in April during a police operation in the northern city of Tripoli. Notorious Islamist militant Osama Mansour, who was wanted on terrorism charges, and one of his partners was killed in the operation.

Investigations into Hoblos uncovered dormant militant cells in north Lebanon that were set to be armed by the radical preacher before his arrest.

Assir, wanted in Lebanon over deadly clashes with the army, was arrested on Aug. 15 as he tried to board a plane from Beirut to Nigeria using a fake Palestinian passport with a valid visa.

He had been on the run since June 2013, when he and a number of his supporters fought a deadly battle with the army outside the southern Lebanese city of Sidon.

The army seized his headquarters after 48 hours of fighting that killed 18 soldiers, but Assir was able to escape with several of his followers.

He has continued to issue audio statements while on the run, and various rumors circulated as to where in Lebanon he was hiding.

In 2014, prosecutors sought the death sentences for Assir and 53 others, including singer-turned-fundamentalist Fadel Shaker.

They were accused of having formed armed groups that killed soldiers, and possessing explosive materials and light and heavy weapons that were used against the Army.

Assir, a native of Sidon, was virtually unknown politically before the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011.

He began making headlines after the conflict erupted by criticizing Hezbollah for its involvement in the Syrian war and for fighting alongside the Syrian army. 

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