BEIRUT (AP) — Gunmen assassinated a prominent Syrian pro-government figure at his home in southern Lebanon on Wednesday in the latest sign of Syria’s civil war spilling over into its smaller neighbor, security officials said.
Mohammed Darrar Jammo was gunned down, shot nearly 30 times, in the coastal town of Sarafand, a stronghold of the Shiite militant Hezbollah group, the officials said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Assassinations of politicians, army officers and journalists who support President Bashar Assad’s regime are not uncommon in Syria, but the killing of a well-known Syrian in Lebanon is rare.
Violence linked to Syria’s civil war is increasingly washing across Lebanon, threatening to unleash large-scale fighting in the country. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb struck a Hezbollah convoy near the Syrian border, while last week a car bomb in south Beirut wounded 53 people in the heart of the militant group’s bastion of support.
Syria’s conflict has cut deep fissures through Lebanon and exposed the country’s split loyalties. Many Lebanese Sunnis support the overwhelmingly Sunni uprising against Assad in Syria, while Shiites generally back Hezbollah and the regime. Clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups in Lebanon have left scores of people dead in recent months, and the violence has escalated as Hezbollah’s role fighting alongside the regime has become public.
Jammo, a 44-year-old political analyst who often appeared on Arab TV stations, was one of Assad’s most vociferous defenders. In frequent appearances on television talk shows, he would staunchly support the Syrian regime’s strong-armed response to the uprising and in at least one case shouted down opposition figures and called them “traitors.”
His hard-line stance earned him enemies among Syria’s opposition, and some in the anti-Assad camp referred to Jammo as “shabih,” a term used for pro-government gunmen who have been blamed for some of the worst mass killings of the civil war.
Lebanon’s state news agency published a photo Wednesday of a shirtless Jammo lying on a blue sheet stained with blood, his chest riddled with bullet wounds.
The Lebanese security officials said Jammo’s Lebanese wife and daughter were both in the house at the time of the attack. His daughter was later rushed to the hospital after suffering from shock, the officials said.
They added that a Lebanese man was detained near Jammo’s house in Sarafand shortly after the shooting and was being questioned.
Sarafand is in predominantly Shiite southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah holds sway and Assad enjoys wide support among the local people.
The militant group has taken on a major role in Syria’s conflict on the side of Assad’s forces, which has contributed to a spike in Sunni-Shiite tensions in Lebanon. It has also prompted warnings from Syrian rebel groups, who have threatened to retaliate on Hezbollah’s home turf.
Inside Syria on Wednesday, Kurdish gunmen captured most of a town near the border with Turkey after a day of fighting against jihadi groups in the area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Such clashes have been common over the past moths in rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
The Observatory said the fighting in the town of Ras al-Ayn between the pro-government militia of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, and members of al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant left at least 11 dead people dead, including nine extremists.
The Observatory said the fighting was taking place a few hundred meters from a border crossing with Turkey. It said members of jihadi groups had to withdraw from the town to nearby villages. It said Kurdish gunmen captured a number of fighters in the area.
The fighting broke out Tuesday after the Islamic fighters attacked a Kurdish patrol in the area, capturing a Kurdish gunman. Wide clashes broke out later in the day after the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant rejected a truce offer, according to the Observatory.