calls for arrest of Beirutis who burned Islamist flag

SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)-Lebanon’s justice minister Ashraf Rifi on Saturday called for the arrest of individuals in Beirut who desecrated a flag used by Islamists including jihadist groups holding 29 Lebanese security forces members on the Syrian border.

Rifi, the former head of the Internal Security Forces and who quietly backs Islamist fighters in his home city of Tripoli, demanded that prosecutors “pursue the perpetrators, detain them and punish them, as their act defames religious rites and might stir strife,” according to a statement posted to the National News Agency.

The March 14 minister was referring to an incident Saturday morning at Sassine Square in Beirut’s mostly-Christian Achrafieh district where a number of people set fire to a black flag with the writing: “There is no god but God. Mohammad is the messenger of God.”

The flag is used by many Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The latter two groups have been holding 29 Lebanese police and soldiers on the Syrian border since August 2.

ISIS in a video earlier this week claimed to have beheaded one of the soldiers, but the army has not confirmed whether a soldier shown in the footage was indeed Lebanese.

Earlier Saturday families of the abducted soldiers and police blocked a highway in northern Lebanon to protest their continued detentions.

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