New Syria-linked clashes in Lebanon’s Tripoli


The West Austrlian

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AFP) – One person was killed and seven others were wounded in fresh clashes on Sunday in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli between factions supporting and opposed to the revolt in neighbouring Syria, security sources said.

The man was killed in Bab al-Tebbaneh as residents of the mainly Sunni Muslim district traded gunfire with locals in the Jabal Mohsen area inhabited by Alawites, a Shiite sect of which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a member.

A resident of the largely Sunni district of Kobbe was killed in similar clashes on Saturday, which also left five injured.

In a separate incident, an army officer was killed by sniper fire as clashes broke out on Saturday night between the army and a group of young men demonstrating for the release of a fellow Islamist, the sources said.

Seven people, including a woman and a child, were shot and wounded in less intense fighting on Sunday night despite an accord for the army to be deployed in hotspots, raising the weekend casualty toll to three dead and 17 wounded.

Several residents fled to safer areas as the army deployment was delayed.

Gunfire first broke out on Saturday between the Islamists and the army as the young demonstrators, sympathisers of the revolt in Syria, tried to approach the offices of the pro-Assad Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

About 10O young men blocked the northern and southern roads into Tripoli, setting up camp at the southern entrance of Lebanon’s second city.

Black flags bearing the profession of Islam, “God is Greatest”, were planted alongside the Syrian flag of independence, a symbol of revolt in the neighbouring country.

“We will not leave until my brother is released,” said Nizar al-Mawlawi, whose 27-year-old brother Shadi was arrested by Lebanese security forces.

According to a statement from the security services, Shadi al-Mawlawi was arrested as part of an “investigation into his ties to a terrorist organisation,” without going into details.

Syrian authorities have repeatedly charged that arms and fighters are being smuggled in from Lebanon to help the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.

Lebanon is divided between the opposition, backed by Washington and hostile to the Syrian regime, and the camp of the Shiite group Hezbollah, which dominates the government and is supported by Damascus and Tehran.


Syria clashes kill 27; fighting hits Lebanon

Sunni angry men block the Syria Street which divides the Sunni and Alawite areas, Lebanon, 13/5/12

Four killed in Lebanon; Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood calls for international investigation into Damascus bombings that killed 70.

Violence in Syria killed 27 people on Sunday and spread to neighboring Lebanon, where four people were killed in clashes between supporters of President Bashar Assad and opponents.

In Syria, at least 27 people were killed Sunday, mostly civilians, according to activists, as rebels fought security forces.

Another 10 people were injured in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli, when clashes broke out between residents of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood, mainly populated by Alawites, and rivals from the Sunni Muslim-dominated district of Bab al-Tabbaneh, said witnesses. Assad is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The violence was sparked when Lebanese authorities detained a Sunni Muslim cleric, Sheikh Shadi al-Mawlawi, according to local media reports. His followers accused the government of arresting al-Mawlawi because he was helping Syrian refugees in Tripoli, while authorities said he is under investigation for his alleged ties to a terrorist organization.

The Syrian government has repeatedly complained that arms and fighters are being smuggled into its territory from Lebanon to assist opposition rebels seeking to oust Assad’s regime.

Most of those killed in Syria were civilians, who were shot dead in random fire in the central provinces of Hama and Homs, and the northern province of Idlib, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Clashes between army defectors and troops also erupted in the cities of Daraa, Deir al-Zour and the capital Damascus.

In Daraa, clashes killed five members of the government security forces, while an army defector was killed in an ambush in Deir al-Zour, the observatory reported.

Reports from Syria cannot be independently verified, as the government has barred most foreign media from the restive areas since a pro-democracy uprising started against Assad’s rule in March 2011.

The persistent violence in Syria has reinforced doubts about the durability of a United Nations-brokered ceasefire that came into effect on April 12.

Last month, the UN Security Council approved the dispatch of observers to Syria. Their number is expected to reach 300 by the end of May.

The ceasefire is a key element of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s plan aimed at ending 14 months of bloodshed in the country. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood group called on Sunday for an international investigation into the bombings that killed up to 70 people in Damascus on Thursday.

“The Muslim Brotherhood announces its rejection to any form of indiscriminate violence, rejects the terrorist attacks and condemns these methods which can never be the methods of revolutionaries,” the group said in a statement.

“We call for a transparent international investigation in these attacks,” the group added, as it blamed the government for the suicide bombings.

A radical group linked to al-Qaida claimed Saturday that it was behind the twin bombings, which were the deadliest since a pro-democracy uprising started against Assad’s regime in March 2011.

The group, calling itself Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant People, said in an online statement attributed to it that the bombings were in retaliation for the regime’s bombardment of residential areas in the country.

The statement’s authenticity could not be independently verified.

Meanwhile, two Turkish journalists detained in Syria for the past two months have returned to Turkey after having been released following mediation by Iran, state news agency Anatolian reported Sunday.

The pair were first flown to the Iranian capital Tehran, before being flown home on the Turkish prime minister’s private jet.

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