Nine killed in Syrian-linked clashes in Lebanon

June 3, 2012

By Nazih Saddiq | Reuters

TRIPOLI, Lebanon | Clashes erupted between heavily-armed supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Lebanon’s port of Tripoli on Saturday, killing nine people and prompting Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to rush there to try to stop the violence.

Mikati held talks with ministers and officials in the northern city, as gunmen a few kilometers (miles) away fired machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades at each other. Residents and a doctor said 42 people had been wounded.

“The Lebanese army and internal security forces need to take all measures to stop the clashes in the city of Tripoli, without discrimination,” a statement from Mikati’s office said. The army moved into the area with armored vehicles but did not open fire, said a Reuters journalist at the scene.

The clashes began after midnight on Friday and were continuing late on Saturday when mortar bombs could be heard.

Gunmen from the Jabal Mohsen district, home to the minority Alawite sect – the same offshoot of Shi’ite Islam to which Assad belongs, have fought on-off skirmishes over the past few weeks with Sunni Muslim fighters in the Bab al-Tabbaneh area.

Saturday’s death toll was the highest in a single day in Tripoli, raising fears that Syria’s unrest could spill over into its smaller neighbor.

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