After more than two years on the run, ISIS top cleric in Lebanon, Ahmed Al Assir was arrested by Lebanese authorities over the weekend…
Ahmed Al Assir
According to a report on Vanguard, Islamic State top cleric in Lebanon, Ahmed Al Assir, who has been on the run for two years now, has been arrested by Lebanese authorities on Saturday as he attempted to fly out of the country on a forged passport.
According to Lebanon’s official National News Agency, Al Assir was caught at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport on Saturday while trying to board a flight to Egypt using a fake Palestinian passport. Lebanon’s general security directorate said Mr Al Assir was planning on flying to Nigeria via Cairo.
Al Assir became one of the most wanted men in Lebanon after his militia went to battle with the Lebanese army in the port city of Sidon in 2013, resulting in the deaths of 18 soldiers and dozens of Mr Al Assir’s gunmen.
When the war in Syria began emboldening extremist Sunnis in Lebanon and inflaming sectarian tensions there, Al Assir swiftly rose from obscurity to become a powerful voice. From his modest Bilal Bin Rabah mosque in the southern city of Sidon, he ralied against Hizbollah and later the Lebanese state, accusing them of subjugating Lebanon’s Sunni community.
Tensions between Al Assir and those he accused of oppressing Sunnis came to a head in June 2013 when his followers attacked a Lebanese army checkpoint in Sidon. The attack kicked off 48 hours of fighting in Sidon as the army launched an assault on Al Assir’s mosque compound. Hizbollah and allied militias also joined in on the attack on Al Assir’s forces.
When the fighting ended and the army captured Al Assir’s mosque, 18 soldiers were dead along with dozens of militants. Al Assir and his surviving companions fled and kept a low profile.
He is believed to have fled to Sidon’s Ain Al Helweh Palestinian refugee camp, a lawless enclave known to be a safehaven for extremist elements. Al Assir’s fall was as sudden as his rise.