Pro- and anti-Assad groups clash in west Beirut, killing one
Published Sunday, March 23, 2014
Updated at 2:45 pm: A firefight erupted in the Lebanese capital early Sunday between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
Clashes erupted 3:00 am in southwest Beirut near Sports City, and lasted more than five hours. The NNA reported that there were casualties, without immediately giving a figure.
Security sources told Reuters that one person had been killed and 10 people wounded, among them civilians.
The fighting pitted supporters of the Arab Movement Party (AMP), led by Shaker Berjawi, and Salafis bitterly opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The NNA said the AMP came under attack by Salafis. after an argument between members of the rival factions escalated into a gun battle.
According to the news agency, the Lebanese army was deployed in the neighborhood, and the area was cautiously calm on Sunday morning.
The Lebanese army issued a statement saying it was working on apprehending people who had participated in the clashes.
The fighting came after nine days of clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups rocked Lebanon's second city Tripoli, killing 24 people and wounding 128.
AMP leader Berjawi is a veteran militant whose career has spanned multiple decades and causes.
He fought in the Lebanese civil war under the banner of the Palestine Liberation Organization before heading to Iraq to fight alongside now executed dictator Saddam Hussein's forces in his 1980-88 war with neighboring Iran.
At the time the Iraqi and Syrian governments were bitter rivals, and on his return home, Berjawi was a staunch opponent of the troop presence in Lebanon which Syria maintained from 1976 to 2005, earning him a spell in prison in Damascus.
But he later changed sides and became a staunch Assad ally.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)