BEIRUT: Tens of supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir gathered over the weekend in the coastal city of Sidon to protest the recent spree of kidnappings in the country and denounce Hezbollah’s insistence on maintaining its arms.
The protesters marched from the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque to the Karameh roundabout near the northern entrance of the sea road in Sidon. They carried banners praising the Syrian uprising and denouncing President Bashar Assad.
Addressing his supporters, Assir said: “What happened in the past few days, with the showcasing of a military wing, the appearance of masked gunmen, the deployment of armed men and threats to figures is very alarming.”
Assir was referring to the Meqdad clan, which announced that its “military wing” had kidnapped over 20 Syrians and a Turkish national in retaliation for the abduction of one of its kinsmen in Damascus by Syrian rebels.
Although the Meqdad clan has since announced a halt to its “military operations” against Syrians affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), three Syrians were briefly kidnapped Saturday.
Another Turkish man was kidnapped earlier this week while ten Syrians were also kidnapped by a previously unknown group demanding the release of 11 Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped by the FSA on May 22.
Assir also spoke extensively about Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s comments that his party would not wait for permission to respond if Lebanon is attacked by Israel.
Addressing Nasrallah, Assir said: “You are not the one to decide when to fight on behalf of Lebanon.”
Assir and his supporters blocked a portion of the vital Sidon highway for almost a month earlier this year in protest of Hezbollah’s arsenal.
“We announce to the prime minister and all Lebanese that we will resort to one escalation after the other until the last moment of our lives and until [all] arms come under the jurisdiction of the state,” he warned.
Addressing Hezbollah, he added: “You will not rest until you place your arms as an item on the agenda of the National Dialogue; otherwise, we will never be silent regarding your arms, whether you like it or not,” he added.
He also said that supporters of Iran and Syria in Lebanon insist on "sinking the ship" that is Lebanon in order to save the embattled government in Damascus.