x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pro-regime Syrian gunned down in Lebanon

Mohammed Jammo, one of Bashar Al Assad's most vociferous supporters, is shot nearly 30 times in his home in the Hizbollah stronghold of Sarafand.

Fatima, right, daughter of Mohammed Jammo, is comforted by a relative. Jammo’s Lebanese wife and daughter were both in the house when he was shot.
Fatima, right, daughter of Mohammed Jammo, is comforted by a relative. Jammo’s Lebanese wife and daughter were both in the house when he was shot.

BEIRUT // Gunmen assassinated a prominent Syrian pro-government figure at his home in southern Lebanon yesterday, shooting him nearly 30 times in the latest sign of Syria's civil war spilling over into its smaller neighbour.

Mohammed Jammo was killed in the coastal town of Sarafand, a stronghold of Hizbollah. Resentment against the Shiite militant group has grown over its open participation in the Syrian conflict on the side of the forces of the president, Bashar Al Assad.

Violence linked to Syria's civil war is increasingly leaking into Lebanon, threatening to unleash large-scale fighting. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb struck a Hizbollah convoy near the Syrian border, and last week a car bomb in south Beirut wounded 53 people in the heart of the militant group's bastion of support.

The attacks point to Hizbollah's growing vulnerability over its participation in the war in Syria. The group's involvement in the fighting there has prompted warnings from Syrian rebel groups, who have threatened to retaliate on Hizbollah's home turf.

Syria's conflict has cut deep fissures through Lebanon and exposed the country's split loyalties. Many Lebanese Sunnis support the overwhelmingly Sunni uprising against the Al Assad regime in Syria, while Shiites generally back Hizbollah and the regime. Clashes between pro and anti-Assad groups in Lebanon have left scores of people dead in recent months.

Jammo, a 44-year-old political analyst who often appeared on Arab TV stations, was one of Mr Al Assad's most vociferous defenders. In frequent appearances on television talk shows, he would staunchly support the Syrian regime's strong-armed response to the uprising and in at least one case shouted down opposition figures, calling them traitors.

His hardline stance earned him enemies among Syria's opposition, and some in the anti-Assad camp referred to Jammo as "shabih", a term used for pro-government gunmen who have been blamed for some of the worst mass killings of the civil war.

Lebanon's state news agency published a photo yesterday of a shirtless Jammo lying on a blue sheet stained with blood, his chest riddled with bullet wounds.

The Lebanese security officials said Jammo's Lebanese wife and daughter were both in the house at the time of the attack. His daughter was later rushed to hospital after suffering from shock, the officials said.

The officials said a Lebanese man and two Syrians were briefly detained near Jammo's house in Sarafand shortly after the shooting but were released after questioning.

Jammo's wife, Siham Younnes, told Hizbollah's Al-Manar TV that she and her husband had just arrived home and he went up to their first-floor apartment before she did. "I closed the car, and as I was heading up I heard the shooting," said the woman.