An influential Lebanese militant leader and cleric called for Sunni Muslims to defect from the army, in a 20-minute tirade posted on YouTube likely to intensify sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Lebanon.

Ahmad al-Assir, rumoured to have been killed fighting in neighbouring Syria, has been in hiding since June when the army and Shi’ite militants stormed his base in Sidon, the worst violence there since Lebanon’s own 1975-90 civil war.

Assir’s order is unlikely to result in a mass exodus of Sunni soldiers in the religiously mixed army but the video, uploaded on Sunday evening, will stir up religious division and violence that have grown since the start of Syria’s conflict. […]