BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese Cabinet minister said gunmen opened fire at his convoy in a mountain village near Beirut on Sunday, killing two of his guards and wounding another.
Saleh al-Gharib, the minister of state handling refugee issues, told local TV he was heading to the mountain village of Qabr Shamoun when his convoy came under fire. Al-Gharib is a member of a Druze party allied with the militant Hezbollah group and supportive of the Syrian government.
The Druze follow an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Like most Lebanese, they are fiercely divided over the war in neighboring Syria, with some supporting President Bashar Assad’s government and others aligned with the opposition.
The shooting came as supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party, led by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, closed roads to prevent Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil from touring the region. Jumblatt’s party is opposed to Assad.
The PSP said in a statement that al-Gharib’s guards opened fire “randomly” at a group of people who were closing the road to prevent Bassil from passing. It said a PSP supporter was wounded in the shooting, and that others who had weapons opened fire at al-Gharib’s convoy, killing two of his guards.
“What happened was an armed ambush and a clear assassination attempt,” al-Gharib told the local Al-Jadeed TV.
The area where the shooting took place witnessed some of the worst fighting and sectarian killings during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. Tensions in the area remain high decades later.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri called officials from the rival parties as well as heads of security agencies, urging them to restore calm.
Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hassan called on members of the sect to calm the situation and urged state institutions to open an investigation into the shooting.
The Lebanese army sent reinforcements to the area.