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Lebanese military shoots dead anti-Assad cleric and companion, sparking protests

Lebanese soldiers shot dead two members of a group opposing the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in Lebanon on Sunday, raising fears turmoil is spilling over the border.

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A road is blocked by burning tires after Lebanese Sunni cleric Ahmad Abdel Wahed was shot dead by Lebanese army troops when his convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in the northern Lebanese town of Halba on May 20, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

Lebanese soldiers shot dead two members of a group opposing the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in Lebanon on Sunday, raising fears turmoil is spilling over the border.

Sunni Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid and Muhammed Hussein Miraib, members of the Lebanon-based March 14 political alliance, were shot by Lebanese soldiers on Sunday, Australia's ABC reported.

Wahid's convoy had failed to stop at a checkpoint in northern Lebanon, according to the Gulf News. It was reportedly heading to a political rally for the Future Party, which is part of the March 14 alliance.

The army released a statement confirming the deaths, but did not reveal who was responsible. The statement said, "The leadership of the army expresses deep regret for the death of the two victims ... it will immediately form an investigative committee comprised of senior officers and military police under the relevant court," according to Reuters.

Angry residents of Beirut burned tires and blocked roads — including the main coastal highway — in protest of the killing, while residents of the northern region of Akkar also blocked off roads.

Some troops pulled out of Akkar to prevent tensions from escalating, the ABC reported.

According to the Associated Press, gunman fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns in Beirut early on Monday, wounding at least six people.

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The Education Minister announced that schools and universities would be closed Monday, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said, "The government is determined to continue to shoulder its national responsibilities amid this critical period in Lebanon and the region, and it will take all measures necessary to preserve civil peace," according to Reuters.

The ABC explained that Sunni Muslims in Lebanon's north sympathized with the Sunni-led uprising against president Bashar al-Assad.

They were also highly suspicious of the Lebanese army, given Syrian government troops occupied parts of Lebanon until 2005, and have accused them of taking orders from Damascus.

Khaled Daher, a member of parliament from the Future Movement party, said the two men had been assassinated.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120520/lebanon-syria-bashar-al-assad-lebanese-army-damascus