Alawite leader in Lebanon charged for 'terror ties'

AFP , Saturday 5 Apr 2014

A senior member of an Alawite party in Lebanon's restive northern city of Tripoli was charged Saturday with being part of an "armed terrorist group," a judicial source said.

Rifaat Eid, the political leader of the Arab Democratic Party, was accused along with 11 others of "belonging to an armed terrorist group with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts," the source told AFP.

They are also suspected of possessing weapons illegally, and "inciting sectarianism".

The charges were filed after the army deployed in Tripoli in an unprecedented operation to quell violence between the Alawite neighbourhood of Jabal Mohsen, where Eid's party holds sway, and the nearby Sunni district of Bab el-Tebbaneh.

Tensions between the neighbourhoods go back decades but have been exacerbated by the war in neighbouring Syria, where the Alawite President Bashar al-Assad faces a Sunni-dominated uprising.

Successive rounds of violence between the neighbourhoods have killed dozens of people and brought parts of the coastal city to a standstill.

The last round of fighting, which lasted two weeks and left 30 people dead, ended with the army's deployment in the two neighbourhoods on April 1.

Rifaat's father, Ali Eid, is wanted for questioning over an August twin car bomb attack against two Sunni mosques in Tripoli that killed 45 people.

Lebanese media has reported that Rifaat Eid is in Syria, and Lebanese witnesses in Damascus told AFP on Saturday they had seen the Alawite leader the night before at a hotel in the Syrian capital.

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