Clashes resume in Tripoli, several wounded

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Lebanese soldiers point their rifles as they are deployed after clashes between Salafi extremists and supporters of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) in the old souk of Tripoli, 15 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Mohamed Azakir)

Published Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clashes erupted Wednesday afternoon in Lebanon's northern city, Tripoli, wounding at least 11 people, after relative calm was restored overnight, an Al-Akhbar correspondent reported.

Heavy fighting was reported between the rival Jabal Mohsen and Bab el-Tebbaneh neighborhoods, the scene of bloody clashes that have so far left 11 people dead and at least 80 wounded since Saturday.

A Lebanese soldier is among the wounded, who was shot in the leg as fighting raged between the Alawi and Sunni neighborhoods.

The Lebanese army is stationed in Syria Street, the road that divides the two neighborhoods, but is so far not intervening as gunmen exchange RPGs and machinegun fire.

The frontline between Jabal Mohsen and Bab el-Tebbaneh is "under heavy fire," according to the correspondent.

Gunfire was also reported in Azmi Street and Mitan Street, where carloads of gunmen shot several rounds before driving off without causing casualties.

Minister of Interior Marwan Charbel was still in Tripoli holding discussions with Islamist figures as the clashes resumed.

Charbel told a press conference that restoring security in the city was his first priority.

"I am with [reaching] understanding over security and not with [any] compromise. For the moment, I opt for security instead of democracy, for there is no democracy at all in the absence of security," he said from the Serail of Tripoli.

The extra deployment of Lebanese troops appeared to have calm the situation Tuesday night after clashes during the day between Salafi militants and supporters of the pro-Assad faction of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Fighting initially erupted on Saturday after General Security arrested Islamist figure Shadi al-Mawlawi on allegations of having links to a terrorist organization.

Lebanon's Military Court has filed charges against Mawlawi and five others, and is proceeding with the case despite demands from Islamists in Tripoli for their immediate release.

The city's streets remain largely deserted as residents fear a serious deterioration in security, but a sit-in of Islamists and Syrian refugees at Al-Nour Square in Tripoli protesting Mawlawi's arrest is still ongoing.

The interior minister met with the protest leaders and said several Islamists will soon be released, but Mawlawi will soon face charges filed against him.

"I confirm to all politicians and armed people that the state will soon address the dossier of Islamists detained in Roumieh jail. We have confidence in justice to settle on this affair," Lebanon's National News Agency quoted him as saying.

The Saudi-backed March 14 coalition accused Syria on Wednesday of trying to drag Lebanon into its crisis.

"It is actually an attempt to make of Tripoli a zone of terrorism. It also aims at striking Lebanon's northern area which has welcomed and helped out the Syrian displaced," said March 14 figure Mustafa Alloush after the coalition held its regular weekly meeting.

Tripoli and north Lebanon have seen an influx of Syrian refugees since the crisis across the border began in March 2011, but the region has long been plagued by poverty, high unemployment and state neglect.

(Al-Akhbar, NNA)


Somebody explain what comprises the tensions between the SSNP and Salafists, please. It's an interesting conflict.

Unless the SSNP is just front for an Alawite sectarian militia in the north of Lebanon, then I suppose it's just dumb sectarian rivalry.

Of course, the movement of weapons and fighters from Lebanon from the March 8 camp supporting Bashar is approved by Sharmine, who is also deafeningly silent like Hezbollah on their allies who rode to power on American tanks. No takhween is directed towards them, nay they are feted and honored in Beirut like they did with Chalabi and Ja'fari.

"The Saudi-backed March 14 coalition accused Syria on Wednesday of trying to drag Lebanon into its crisis."

A laughably duplicitous claim since the ink has barely dried on a deal between March 14 and the Muslim Brotherhood in Lebanon that was in part conceived to support forces against the Syrian government:

Let us not forget that Tripoli is a stronghold for March 14 - and salafists supported by this group. If they were so intent on ridding Lebanon of a spillover from the Syrian crisis, they would be working with all Lebanese to close off the border routes and prevent the movement of weapons and fighters between the two countries.

There would be no "Syrian crisis" inside Lebanon if not for March 14 and their allies.

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