Two killed in fresh Syria-linked clashes in Lebanon
TRIPOLI, Lebanon - Agence France-Presse
A Sunni gunman fires during clashes, in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Monday May 14, 2012. AP photoTwo people were killed and at least 16 wounded in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli as fresh sectarian clashes linked to unrest in neighbouring Syria erupted today, a security official told AFP.
He said one man died in the neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, populated mainly by members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The other was killed near Bab al-Tebbaneh, a neighborhood that sits opposite Jabal Mohsen and is populated mainly by Sunni Muslims opposed to Assad's regime.
Battles first erupted on Saturday between residents of the two neighbourhoods after security forces arrested a Sunni Islamist on suspicion he was linked to a terrorist organization.
A total of five people, including a soldier hit by sniper fire, have died in the port city and 47 have been wounded since the fighting began.
The army said in a statement that two soldiers were wounded overnight when their patrol came under attack by armed men as they were trying to reopen a freeway between the two neighborhoods.
An AFP correspondent in Tripoli said Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh were hit by heavy gunfire and shelling today, forcing all shops and businesses to stay closed.
Many residents fled the area at the weekend and those that remained were hiding in their homes.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Sunni Muslim from Tripoli, met with religious leaders in the city on Sunday and appealed for calm.
Since the outbreak of the revolt in Syria in March last year, there have been fears the unrest could spill over into Lebanon, where the government is dominated by a pro-Damascus coalition led by the powerful militant group Hezbollah.
Tripoli is a conservative mainly Sunni town where many activists and opponents of the Syrian regime have sought refuge.
Syrian authorities have repeatedly charged that arms and fighters are being smuggled in from Lebanon to help the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.