Lebanese soldiers at Syria border 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - Gunmen shot the mayor of a town in Lebanon and killed
two of his companions only hours after he oversaw a hostage swap with a rival
clan in an area increasingly riven by sectarian divisions, security sources said
The attack near the border with Syria highlights how the civil
war there has worsened enmity between Lebanese Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim militias
that support opposing sides of the two-year-old conflict.
Hujeiri, a Sunni from the town of Arsal, was shot in the majority Shi'ite town
of Labweh as he returned from the hostage exchange with a rival Shi'ite clan.
The sources said the attack was carried out by residents of the area, but did
The Bekaa Valley region, where the attack happened, is
religiously mixed. Some areas are controlled by the Shi'ite militant Hezbollah
group which is helping President Bashar Assad crush the revolt. Other parts,
like Arsal, are Sunni, and residents provide a safe haven for majority-Sunni
The hostages were being held in relation to an incident in
June in which four of Labweh's residents were killed by rebel fighters, the
The recapture of the Syrian border town of Qusair in June
by Assad's forces, spearheaded by Hezbollah guerrillas, led to an influx of
Syrian rebel fighters and civilians into Lebanon and more violence spilling over
into the Bekaa region.
Rockets fired from areas believed to be controlled
by Syrian rebels have targeted the Shi'ite town of Hermel, while Syrian
helicopters have crossed into Lebanon and fired at buildings in Arsal.