Sheikh killed, journalists wounded in latest Tripoli fighting
Published Friday, August 24, 2012
A sniper killed a sheikh in the north Lebanon city of Tripoli on Friday, sparking new clashes between rival impoverished neighborhoods that dashed a tenuous truce.
The death of Sheikh Khaled al-Baradei, 28, brought to 15 the number of people killed in the fighting over the past five days and stoked fears of a spillover of major violence from the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Al-Baradei is said to be a Salafi religious leader from the embattled Bab el-Tabbaneh region, reported an Al-Akhbar correspondent.
At least 100 people have been wounded, the correspondent added.
One of the wounded, Issam Marabani succumbed to injuries Wednesday, bringing the day's death toll to two, according to the National News Agency.
Two members of the press are among the wounded, including one foreign journalist. Sky News broadcast journalist Hussein Nahle was wounded in the head by sniper fire near a highway in the city, but his condition is reported to be stable. Canadian journalist Maria Moore sustained a leg injury.
Our correspondent also reports that there have been several cases of house and shop torching from both sides of the district divide. Seven masked men set a a kiosk alight near al-Nour square, the NNA said.
The exchanges of rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire pitted fighters from the Bab el-Tabbaneh district against those from the neighboring district of Jabal Mohsen.
The intensity of the exchanges sparked large fires in the two neighborhoods in the east of the Mediterranean port city, Lebanon's second largest.
Families hammered holes through the walls of their apartments to escape to safety down makeshift ladders as the clashes raged.
Hundreds of soldiers with tanks and military vehicles have deployed on the aptly named Syria Street – which acts both as the dividing line between the two districts and as the frontline when fighting erupts.
Several families displaced by the fighting had returned to the two districts on Thursday to inspect the damage to their homes, as a truce agreed on Wednesday had appeared to take hold.
"I can no longer cope with this situation. In my house I have got three families who have fled the violence," said Ahmed Breiss, who runs a car workshop in Qobbeh.
"We have nothing to do with what's going on in Syria. We want to live in peace," he said.
"We've got barely enough to survive but the militiamen get wages. They're not fighting for any cause just for their own interests."
A wave of kidnappings preceded the latest round of fighting and rattled the already fragile security situation in Lebanon, which lived under three decades of Syrian domination.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a native of Tripoli, on Wednesday raised fresh concern over "efforts to drag Lebanon more and more into the conflict in Syria when what is required is for leaders to cooperate... to protect Lebanon from the danger."
The authorities have instructed the army and security forces "to bring the situation under control, to prohibit any armed presence and to arrest those implicated" in the violence, he said in a statement.
The United Nations has called for more international support for Lebanese authorities to prevent a spillover of the 17-month conflict in neighboring Syria.
"The situation in Lebanon has become more precarious and the need for continued international support to the government and the Lebanese armed forces increasingly important," UN under secretary general Jeffrey Feltman said on Wednesday.
(AFP, NNA, Al-Akhbar)