Alawite party official gunned down in Lebanon

February 20, 2014 - 11:25:03 am

BEIRUT: A senior official in a Lebanese Alawite party supportive of the Syrian regime was shot dead Thursday in the northern city of Tripoli, sparking clashes in which five people were wounded.

"Masked gunmen opened fire at 7:00 am or 0500 GMT on Abdelrahman Diab," a senior official in the Arab Democratic Party, as he drove through Tripoli, which sees frequent deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a security official told AFP.

He said hooded gunmen on a motorbike carried out the killing in a Sunni neighbourhood, shooting Diab in the head and stomach.

A party official confirmed the killing and said Diab was in charge of "military" affairs.

Diab, in his 50s, is the father of Youssef Diab, who has been detained by Lebanese authorities on suspicion of involvement in the twin bombings of a Tripoli mosque in August that killed 45 people.

Tripoli has been the scene of frequent deadly clashes between Alawite residents of the Jabal Mohsen district, who hail from the same religious sect as Assad, and Sunni Muslims in neighbouring Bab al-Tebbaneh who support the Syrian rebels.

As news of the assassination spread, shots rang out between the two neighbourhoods and at least five people were wounded, with Lebanese army troops moving to seal off the area.

Lebanon itself is bitterly divided over the war in its larger neighbour, with the Iranian-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah having sent fighters to bolster Assad's troops while Sunnis have backed the Sunni-led rebellion.

On Wednesday, two suicide car bombs exploded near an Iranian cultural centre in Beirut, killing six people.

The attack was claimed by a jihadist group that said it was targeting Hezbollah and Iran, a key ally of the Assad regime.

The bombings and the violence in Tripoli highlight the challenges confronting Lebanon's new government, formed at the weekend after a 10-month political vacuum. (AFP)