Last updated: 23 March, 2014

Fugitive Sunni cleric slams Lebanese army in video message

A radical Sunni cleric wanted by Lebanese authorities since deadly clashes last year between his supporters and security forces Sunday accused the army of being a “tool” of Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Military judge Riad Abu Ghida has recommended seeking death sentences for cleric Ahmad al-Assir and 53 others in connection with the summer clashes in the southern city of Sidon that killed at least 18 soldiers.

Assir and a number of his supporters, including crooner-turned-fundamentalist Fadel Shaker, have been on the run since the clashes.

But in a video posted Sunday on YouTube and his personal Twitter account Assir slammed the army, saying it was a “tool” of Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

He also urged Sunni soldiers to quit the army.

Assir gained notoriety for his fierce opposition to Hezbollah, particularly after the group’s decision to back the Syrian regime in the country’s civil war.

Since becoming a fugitive, Assir has released a number of audio recordings and several tweets renewing his criticism of Hezbollah and Iran.