TRIPOLI, (Reuters) – A man was killed and 11 wounded in a second day of sectarian clashes in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Wednesday between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in neighbouring Syria’s civil war, residents said.
The army, which cut off all roads leading to the area a day earlier, has sent in reinforcements to try to stop militants using machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades along Syria Street, a main thoroughfare that has become synonymous with the fighting in the city over the past year.
At least four people have died and 39 have been wounded in two days of fighting in Tripoli on Lebanon’s northern Mediterranean coast.
Tension had been building since the deaths of at least 14 Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen from north Lebanon in a Syrian town close to the border on Friday. They appeared to have joined insurgents waging a 20-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian state television has shown graphic footage of the dead men, riddled with gunshot wounds and lying in the grass.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour has asked the Syrian ambassador to hand over the bodies of the men after their families rallied in Tripoli to demand the Lebanese government return the dead and determine the whereabouts of the missing.
Tripoli’s sectarian divisions have made it a flashpoint within Lebanon, where violence from Syria has sometimes spilled over. The Syrian uprising is mostly being waged by majority Sunni Muslims and largely opposed by Assad’s Alawite sect.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni city and mostly supports the uprising next door, but the coastal city has an Alawite minority and clashes have erupted several times since the revolt began.
Residents said violence first flared on Monday night, when rocket-propelled grenades were fired by gunmen in the Sunni neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.