Lebanese army deploys in Tripoli after 15 killed (REUTERS) By Nazih Siddiq TRIPOLI, Lebanon 06/03/12 8:14am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Lebanese troops deployed in the city of Tripoli on Sunday
after 15 people were killed in clashes between supporters and
opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, local medics said, the
deadliest fighting in Lebanon since Syria´s uprising began.
Residents said relative calm had returned to the Mediterranean city
since the soldiers took up positions around the city at around 7
a.m., after gunmen exchanged heavy machinegun fire and rocket-
Two people wounded in the fighting died on Sunday, adding to the 13
killed on Saturday. Occasional gunfire could still be heard but was
less intense than earlier exchanges.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other local politicians held a crisis
meeting in Tripoli at the weekend and instructed security forces to
use an "iron fist" to quell the violence.
The mainly Sunni Muslim protests against Assad have polarized
Tripoli, where a small community of Alawites - from the same offshoot
of Shi´ite Islam as Assad - have frequently clashed with majority
Sunni Muslims who support the uprising.
Gunmen from the Jebel Mohsen district, home to Tripoli´s Alawites,
have fought intermittent skirmishes over recent weeks with Sunni
Muslim fighters in the Bab al-Tabbaneh area.
The latest clashes began after midnight on Friday and continued
throughout Saturday until the army deployment.
The death toll was the highest in a single day in Tripoli, reflecting
the increasing threat to stability in Lebanon caused by tensions over
Sunni Muslim fighters have also fought street battles in the capital
Beirut, and the kidnapping last month of 11 Lebanese Shi´ites in
Syria has further fuelled tensions.
Residents said those killed in Tripoli included civilians caught in
the crossfire and that a Lebanese soldier was among dozens who were
wounded, at least 10 of them seriously.
The Lebanese National News Agency said there was "shelling across
both areas heard every five minutes, and snipers targeting civilians"
The areas have long-standing grievances separate from the Syrian
conflict, but the Sunni-led uprising against Assad has caused strife
among Lebanon´s mixed population, especially in Tripoli, 70 km (43
miles) north of Beirut.
Syria flooded Lebanon with troops early in its 1975-1990 civil war
and dominated its neighbor for more than a decade afterwards. It
retains significant influence over Lebanon´s intelligence apparatus
and military, despite having withdrawn troops in 2005. (Reporting by
Nazih Siddiq; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jon Hemming and
Hugh Lawson) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 06/03/12)
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