Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Three people killed as sectarian clashes continue in Lebanon

AP , BEIRUT

Sectarian clashes in northern Lebanon continued for a second day on Saturday, killing three people and wounding 27, security officials said.

Tripoli has seen fierce clashes between pro-government Sunni Muslim gunmen and Alawite fighters, a small offshoot Shiite Islam allied with the Lebanese opposition and Syria.

A total of nine people were killed and 42 wounded in the fighting, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.

Tension has been high along Lebanon’s religious and political fault lines since the militant Shiite Hezbollah group overran parts of Beirut in May in response to government attempts to limit its power.

Under an Arab-brokered deal later that month, Hezbollah and its opposition allies joined a national unity government headed by Western-backed Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora but earned veto power over its decisions.

A ceasefire mediated by the grand mufti of north Lebanon, Sheik Malek al-Shaar, failed to take hold on Friday as gunmen in Tripoli’s Sunni Bab el-Tabaneh district exchanged automatic rifle fire and rocket-propelled grenades with gunmen in the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood.

Fighting came to a halt before midday on Saturday when Lebanese soldiers and police began fanning out in Tripoli, taking up positions between rival neighborhoods to prevent hostilities.

Residents showered troops with rice as they deployed for the first time deep into Tripoli’s streets and narrow alleys in the rival districts of Bab el-Tabaneh and Jabal Mohsen, the state-run National News Agency reported. It said the fighting had forced about 1,000 families to flee their homes in Tripoli to safer areas.

National police commander, Major General Ashraf Rifi, said the army and police were under orders from Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Siniora to deal firmly with any troublemaker in the city.

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