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Lebanon Christian Party official killed by alleged Syrian gang, fuelling sectarian tensions

April 9, 2024 at 5:12 pm

Lebanon Christian Party official Pascal Sleiman [karimbitar/X]

A prominent official of a Lebanese Christian party has been found and confirmed as dead, after initially being reported kidnapped.

After being apprehended and kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in northern Lebanon on Sunday, the whereabouts of Pascal Sleiman – a local coordinator for the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party – were unknown while subject to a search and investigation by security forces in the country.

According to the Lebanese army, however, Sleiman was later discovered to have been killed, allegedly by a Syrian gang with direct connections within Syria.

“Following up on the case of Pascal Sleiman, who was kidnapped, the army intelligence directorate was able to arrest most Syrian gang members involved in the kidnapping”, the army announced in a statement on X.

“During their investigation, it became clear that the kidnapped person was killed by them while they were trying to steal his car in the Jbeil area, and that they transported his body to Syria,” the army stated. “The Army Command coordinates with the Syrian authorities to hand over the body, and investigations are completed under the supervision of the Cassation Public Prosecution.”

Although the identities and motives of the alleged Syrian gang members have not yet been revealed, they are suspected by many to either be affiliates of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his regime or members of the Iran-backed Lebanese Shia movement, Hezbollah – a direct rival and opponent of the LF party.

The kidnapping and murder of Sleiman – the second such killing of an LF official over the past year – poses the serious risk of an increase in sectarian tensions and strife throughout Lebanon, with protests having rocked the Jbeil district since Sunday and Syrians reportedly facing greater animosity in the country.

Members of Lebanon’s Shia political class have since attempted to calm accusations of Hezbollah’s suspected involvement, with Grand Jaafarite Mufti, Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan, warning against “political exploitation” and “sectarian mobilisation”, and with the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper having reported that the party “is keen on civil peace” and opposes accusations against any party prior to the end of the army’s investigation.

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