BEIRUT (AP) — Gunmen assassinated a prominent Syrian pro-government figure at his home in southern Lebanon on Wednesday, shooting him nearly 30 times in the latest sign of Syria's civil war spilling over into its smaller neighbor.
Mohammed Darrar Jammo was gunned down in the coastal town of Sarafand, a stronghold of Hezbollah. Resentment against the Shiite militant group has grown over its open participation in the Syrian conflict on the side of President Bashar Assad's forces.
Assassinations of politicians, army officers and journalists who support Assad's regime are not uncommon in Syria, but the killing of a well-known Syrian in Lebanon is rare. It shook the fiercely pro-Syrian town in Lebanon's south, largely bypassed by clashes and bombings that have plagued other areas.
Violence linked to Syria's civil war is increasingly washing across Lebanon, threatening to unleash large-scale fighting. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb struck a Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah'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 Hezbollah'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 Assad in Syria, while Shiites generally back Hezbollah and the regime. Clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups in Lebanon have left scores of people dead in recent months, and the violence has escalated as Hezbollah's role fighting alongside the regime has become public.
Jammo, a 44-year-old political analyst who often appeared on Arab TV stations, was one of 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 hard-line 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 Wednesday 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 the 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 Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV that she and her husband had just arrived home, and he went up to their first floor apartment before her. "I closed the car, and as I was heading up I heard the shooting," said the women, rocking her head back and forth in grief.
In Syria on Wednesday, Kurdish gunmen captured most of a town near the border with Turkey after a day of fighting against jihadi groups in the area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Such clashes have been common over the past moths in rebel-held areas in northern Syria.
The Observatory said the fighting in the town of Ras al-Ayn between the pro-government militia of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, and members of al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant left at least 11 dead people dead, including nine extremists.
The Observatory said the fighting was taking place a few hundred meters from a border crossing with Turkey. It said members of jihadi groups had to withdraw from the town to nearby villages. It said Kurdish gunmen captured a number of fighters in the area.
A Turkish official said a 17-year-old youth was killed Tuesday in a Turkish town from stray bullets coming from Ras al-Ayn. Turkey's military said it fired into Syria in retaliation for the killing.
The fighting broke out Tuesday after the Islamic fighters attacked a Kurdish patrol in the area, capturing a Kurdish gunman. Wide clashes broke out later in the day after the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant rejected a truce offer, according to the Observatory.
Syrian TV reported Wednesday that a car bomb went off near a mosque in the Damascus suburb of Kanakir. It said there were casualties but gave no further details.