Three dead in sectarian clash in north Lebanon

Fighting erupted between Tripoli neighborhoods of Bab al-Tebbaneh, mostly Sunni Muslim, and Alawite populated Jabal Mohsen.

Lebanon hills 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanon hills 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TRIPOLI - At least three people were killed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday when armed residents from rival sectarian factions clashed, a military source said, hours after a demonstration in support of Syrian protesters.
The fighting with grenades and gunfire erupted between residents of the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tebbaneh neighborhood and the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood, whose inhabitants are Alawite, the sect to which Syrian President Bashar Assad belongs.
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The source said one of those killed was an off-duty soldier caught in the crossfire and the other two were civilians. Four civilians were wounded but it was not clear from which side. The army, which said it was carrying out raids to detain the gunmen, said two soldiers were also wounded.
The rival neighborhoods often clash, but this incident comes during heightened tension over the popular unrest against Syria's Assad across the border.
Lebanon's northern border has already seen an influx of Syrians who had escaped a military assault in the border village of Tel Kelakh last month.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the timing of the incident was "suspicious".
"Civil strife is wreaking havoc with the security of the city and its people," Mikati said from his home in Tripoli.
"I have given strict instructions to the army and security forces to take severe measures and hit with an iron fist and is mistaken whoever thinks they are above the state and the law."
After Friday noon prayers, dozens of demonstrators took to Nour Square in Tripoli, chanting against Assad's crackdown on a three-month wave of popular protests calling for his downfall.
The numbers of Alawites are small in Lebanon but they gained some political clout when Syria dominated Lebanon through its 29-year military presence, which ended in 2005.
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