Unknown assailants attacked the office of Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, smashing its windows early on Wednesday, reports said. They then moved to one of the city's main squares and set fire to the municipality's Christmas tree.
The military said that it later detained four suspects in Tripoli and confiscated their motorcycles.
The military said men on motorcycles gathered outside Shaar’s home and rioted, “used profanity” and smashed property. The mob then moved to the square and threw fire bombs at the Christmas tree, setting it on fire.
The violence indicated that the tensions that recently gripped the Lebanese capital, Beirut, over an online video deemed offensive to the country's Shiites are spreading to Tripoli, the country's second-largest city.
On Tuesday, anger boiled over in Beirut after the offensive video was widely circulated online, showing a Tripoli resident railing against the leaders of the country's two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and Amal and religious Shiite figures and using expletives. Their supporters descended on a protest camp in Beirut as security forces intervened to push them back, setting off hours of pitched street battles.
Angry assailants also attacked protest camps in the northern district of Hermel and in the southern city of Sidon and Nabatiyeh on Tuesday.
The violence threatened to plunge Lebanon further into chaos and ignite sectarian strife after anti-government protests erupted on October 17 forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
This week Shaar called Amal movement leader Speaker Nabih Berri to apologize for the rant against him.
Hezbollah and Amal supporters have been intolerant of the protesters' criticism of their leaders and have tried for days, even before the video emerged, to attack the protest camps.
The anti-government protests have spared no Lebanese politician, accusing the ruling elite of corruption and mismanagement, and calling for a government of independents. They have been largely peaceful, sparked by an intensifying economic crisis.
Berri and Hariri met on Tuesday and urged the Lebanese not to be “drawn toward strife" and adding that some parties they didn't name are working to incite violence in the country.