Lebanon shaken as army says Syrian gang kills local official

AFP , Monday 8 Apr 2024

Syrian kidnappers killed a Lebanese local political official belonging to a party that opposes the powerful Hezbollah movement, Lebanon's army said on Monday, in a case that shook the country.

The Lebanese army is coordinating with Syrian authorities to retrieve the local official s body. AFP


Pascal Sleiman was local coordinator in the Jbeil (Byblos) area, north of Beirut, for the Christian Lebanese Forces party that opposes Damascus and its ally Hezbollah -- which has been exchanging near-daily cross-border fire with Israel since Israel began its war on Gaza six months ago.

Sleiman's abduction sparked outrage in his Jbeil district, where hundreds of supporters blocked roads after news of his death erupted, according to an AFP photographer in the area.

"Following up on the case of Pascal Sleiman, who was kidnapped, the army intelligence directorate was able to arrest most Syrian gang members involved in the kidnapping," the Lebanese army said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

The investigation found that "the kidnapped person was killed by them (the gang) while they were trying to steal his car in the Jbeil area, and they transported his body to Syria," the army added.

The Lebanese army is coordinating with Syrian authorities to retrieve Sleiman's body, the statement added.

The Lebanese Forces party said in a statement late Monday that they considered Sleiman's killing "a political assassination until proven otherwise".

The party also called on supporters to stop blocking roads.

In a televised speech earlier Monday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah denied his party was involved in the kidnapping. He accused those blaming the group of stirring sectarian strife.

Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the killing in a statement published by his office. It said investigations were ongoing to bring the culprits to justice.

"In these difficult circumstances, we call on everyone to exercise self-control, be wise, and not be drawn into rumours and emotions," Mikati added.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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