- Associated Press - Friday, February 28, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) - A Lebanese military prosecutor has charged a hard-line Sunni cleric with being involved in a deadly shootout with government troops and killing of soldiers, demanding he face the death penalty.

Lebanon’s state news agency reported Friday that military prosecutor Riad Abu Ghaida also charged 56 supporters of cleric Sheik Ahmad al-Assir with committing crimes against the military.

Ghaida demanded capital punishment for them as well. They include former popular singer-turned-extremist Fadel Shaker.

Eighteen Lebanese soldiers were killed in clashes between al-Assir’s armed supporters and the army in June. The shootout in the coastal city of Sidon deepened sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who support opposing sides in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

At least three recent suicide bombers in Lebanon were al-Assir’s followers.

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