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Angry Lebanese protest over attack on priest's library that destroyed over 50,000 books
A Lebanese soldier stands guard, on January 4, 2014 in north Lebanon's city of Tripoli, outside a decades-old library owned by a Greek Orthodox priest that was torched after "a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the books that was insulting to Islam and the prophet Mohammad" said a source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. "Unknown assailants torched the Saeh Library in Tripoli, destroying two thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts housed there" said the source. AFP PHOTO IBRAHIM CHALHOUB.
TRIPOLI (AFP).- Hundreds of Lebanese took to the streets of the northern city of Tripoli on Saturday to protest the torching of a decades-old library owned by a Greek Orthodox priest.

The demonstrators held up banners that read "Tripoli, peaceful town" and "This is contrary to the values of the Prophet," in reference to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

Assailants set alight the Saeh library belonging to Father Ibrahim Surouj on Friday night, destroying two-thirds of the 80,000 books and manuscripts it stored, a security official told AFP.

The attack came a day after "a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the books at the library that was insulting to Islam and the prophet Mohammad," the official said at the time.

Later, however, "it became clear the priest had nothing to do with the pamphlet," said the same source.

"Then on Friday night, the library was torched," he added.

The attack left the shelves and walls of the library charred.

But the Greek Orthodox priest forgave those responsible for the attack, in a statement aired on television on Saturday.

The library is located in the historic heart of Tripoli, Lebanon's second city and scene of frequent Syria-related violence pitting Sunnis against members of the minority Alawite community, to which Syria's President Bashar al-Assad belongs.

Sectarian violence involving the city's Christians has been extremely rare in recent years.

But Friday's incident comes amid a backdrop of growing religious radicalism in Lebanon related to the war in neighbouring Syria.



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