9 killed in 5 days of clashes in Lebanon's Tripoli: security official

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 22 Jan 2014

01/22/2014 21:10 GMT

TRIPOLI, January 22, 2014 (AFP) - Nine people have been killed in five days of fighting in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where sectarian clashes linked to the Syrian war regularly break out, a security official said Wednesday.

"After a civilian and an army soldier were killed today, the death toll since Friday has risen to nine people," said the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

Another 65 people, including four soldiers, have also been wounded, he added.

The latest deaths come a day after the army started deploying troops on the aptly named Syria street, that acts as the frontline separating the Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh from Jabal Mohsen.

While residents of Bab al-Tebbaneh support the revolt in neighbouring Syria against Bashar al-Assad, the Alawites of Jabal Mohsen -- who come from the same offshoot of Shiite Islam as Syria's president -- back the regime.

"The clashes ensued despite the army's attempt to deploy, making it very difficult for troops to enter Syria street," said the security official.

Then on Wednesday morning, "armed men from Bab al-Tebbaneh launched a rocket-propelled grenade at a military vehicle," he added.

One of the four troops wounded in the attack died later in the day from his injuries.

Fighting then raged between the army and Bab al-Tebbaneh's fighters, who view the military as siding against them and on Jabal Mohsen's side.

The fighting has since subsided, after a meeting Wednesday at caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati's Tripoli residence, during which a ceasefire was agreed.

But hundreds of families that have fled the two neighbourhoods in the past five days have not yet returned, while Tripoli's schools and universities remained closed.

On Wednesday, shop owners in the heart of the city kept their stores shut, for fear clashes between Sunni militants and the army might spread beyond the battle-hardened, outlying neighbourhoods.

The sectarian fault-line between the neighbourhoods is decades old, but has been exacerbated by the war just across the border in Syria.

Tripoli was declared a military zone in December, after several rounds of fighting between Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

Militants from the two neighbourhoods remain heavily armed.

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