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Hezbollah chief makes rare public appearance

Manar TV via AFP - Getty Images

An image grab taken from the Hezbollah-run Manar TV shows Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah delivering a speech in southern Beirut, Lebanon, on Dec. 6, 2011, in his first public appearance since 2008.

The Associated Press reports from BEIRUT:

Wael Hamzeh / EPA

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah leaves with his bodyguards after he delivered a speech in Beirut on Dec. 6, 2011.

 The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah group made a rare public appearance at a Beirut rally on Tuesday to mark the Muslim holy day of Ashoura.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has rarely been seen in public since his Shiite Muslim group battled Israel in a monthlong war in 2006, fearing Israeli assassination. Since then, he has communicated with his followers and gives news conference mostly via satellite link.

But on Tuesday, the black-turbaned Nasrallah was seen walking through a throng of people in a southern Shiite stronghold in Beirut and then greeted crowds from the podium.

"I wanted to be with you for few minutes ... to renew our pledge and for the world to hear us," Nasrallah said. His public appearance, he said, was a message to those who believe they can "threaten us," he added.

"We are growing in numbers, our training is getting better and our weapons are increasing," Nasrallah said. "And for those who are betting that our weapons are rusting, we say that our weapons are being renewed." Continue reading.

Bilal Hussein / AP

Hezbollah supporters gather to listen to the speech of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah during Ashoura day, in Beirut on Dec. 6, 2011.

NBC's Jim Maceda profiles Nasrallah and Hezbollah in this 2010 report: