Lebanese Alawite leader, 11 others charged with "terrorist" activity

BEIRUT Sat Apr 5, 2014 9:22am EDT

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon has charged a dozen people including a prominent Alawite leader with belonging to an "armed terrorist organization", judicial sources said on Saturday, part of a drive to control sectarian violence fuelled by the war in Syria.

Around 30 people have been killed in the past month in Lebanon's northern coastal city of Tripoli in clashes between Sunni Muslims and members of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also belongs. The rebels fighting Assad's forces are mostly Sunni.

Of the 12 people charged by Lebanon's military prosecutor, 11 have fled and have not been apprehended, the judicial sources said, including Rifaat Eid, head of the Arab Democratic Party, which draws its support largely from Tripoli's Alawites.

Eid's house was among those raided when the army deployed in Tripoli in force on Tuesday.

Like the others, Eid was suspected of "belonging to an armed terrorist organization aiming to carry out terrorist activities, participation in incidents ... in Tripoli, possessing weapons and inciting sectarian and confessional strife," Lebanon's National News Agency reported.

On Friday, Lebanon's military prosecutor charged two suspected Lebanese militants with belonging to a Syrian Sunni Islamist rebel group tied to al Qaeda.

Lebanon, still dealing with the fallout of its own 1975-90 civil war, has struggled to contain Syria-related violence inside its borders. Over 150,000 people have died in Syria's three-year-old conflict and millions more have fled their homes.

(Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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