Saturday, June 16, 2007


Radical Group Pulls In Sunnis As Lebanon's Muslims Polarize -

"After sectarian strife in Tripoli earlier this year unrelated to the clashes between Lebanese forces and Fatah al-Islam, Hariri and his political allies rewarded Sunnis who had fought and honored the families of those who had died. Such patronage has long been a part of Lebanon's largely feudal system of clan loyalty.

"Abed al-Rahman al-Helo, 30, the owner of an electrical shop in al-Tabineh, was one such fighter. In January, rival demonstrators shot him through the chest in a street battle between Sunnis and minority Allawites, members of a mostly Syrian sect that is doctrinally close to Shiism. The fighting in Tripoli was sparked in part by Shiite-Sunni clashes in Beirut at the same time that left four people dead.

"Two lawmakers from Hariri's Future Movement visited Helo in the hospital, he said.

"They were telling me, 'Don't be afraid. We're proud of you. We have our heads up high because of you,' " Helo said.

"The Lebanese government paid 80 percent of his hospital bill and Future took care of the rest, he said, but added that he had refused the $200 Hariri's bloc offered for his pharmacy bills, deeming it insultingly low.

"Relatives of Bilal al-Hayek, a 28-year-old tow-truck driver shot dead in the same clash, said they had received $5,400 in separate payments from a Future Movement official in Tripoli."

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