24 dead in clashes in Lebanon's Tripoli since March 13

AFP , Saturday 22 Mar 2014

A Sunni Muslim gunman carries his weapon as he stands guard in Lebanon's northern port city of Tripoli March 21, 2014. (Photo:Reuters )

Syria-linked clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli have killed 24 people since March 13, a security source said Saturday, as sniper fire forced the closure of the highway to Syria.

Tripoli has been the scene of chronic sectarian fighting since the war in Syria erupted three years ago, with gunmen from the Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh battling fighters in the Alawite neighbourhood of Jabal Mohsen.

Tensions between the two districts go back decades but have been exacerbated by the conflict in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, is battling a Sunni-led opposition.

The security source said that since March 13, "there have been 14 killed and 128 wounded".

Fierce fighting on Friday killed 10 people raising the death toll to 24 since March 13, the security source said, adding that 128 people have also been wounded in the nine days of violence.

Seventeen soldiers were among the wounded, the source said.

The army has been deployed in Tripoli for several weeks to try to bring peace to the warring districts but troops have repeatedly come under fire.

Relative calm prevailed on Saturday although snipers forced the closure of the highway leading from Tripoli to the Syrian border.

Most of the fighting in the city has taken place under the cover of darkness.

Lawmakers from the city said in a statement: "What is happening in Tripoli is a war of attrition, and no one is trying to end the bloodbath".

Meanwhile, Syrian government helicopters launched six raids in 12 hours against Wadi Ajram, an area inside Syria near the border, a Lebanese security source said.

After regime troops backed by Lebanon's Hezbollah captured the opposition bastion of Yabrud in Damascus province last week, rebel fighters have been fleeing across the border in the area.

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