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Druze Tanks Blast Beirut Police Academy, Causing 39 Casualties

November 29, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Two tanks firing from Muslim controlled hills east of Beirut slammed shells into the assembly yard of a police training academy Saturday, killing eight persons and wounding 31 others.

The Voice of Lebanon radio said the shells struck the academy, located on the Christian side of Beirut's "Green Line" battle zone, following a fierce mortar and artillery battle earlier in the day between Christian and Muslim militiamen along the five-mile line that has divided Beirut since 1975.

"The officers were training when fighting erupted and shells hit the academy," a police spokesman said.

The academy's commander, Col. Antoine Naser, called the attack a "brutal massacre." It was the second in two months aimed at the academy, which trains 300 security personnel at a time. In the first attack Oct. 8, two soldiers were killed in a barrage of shell fire.

Police officials said seven of the victims Saturday were policemen and one a civilian. They described the tanks as Soviet-made vehicles manned by the Druze Progressive Socialist Party militia.

Lebanese Red Cross ambulances rushed to the academy in the Warwar district to evacuate the wounded to nearby Baabda hospital. The academy's operations room and classrooms were heavily damaged in the attack.

During the fighting Saturday, more shells crashed into Christian residential neighborhoods near the Green Line, but no civilian casualties were reported. The fighting was halted shortly after a Joint Security Committee, which includes all the militias, arranged for a cease-fire to enable rescue workers to operate in the area.

Battles between Christian East Beirut and the Muslim West have been sporadic since last February, when Syria sent 7,000 troops to the Muslim section to end three years of lawlessness.

To the south of Beirut, Israeli armored columns took up positions Saturday around two towns in Israel's self-declared security zone in southern Lebanon, adding to mounting expectations that Israel plans to retaliate for an Arab guerrilla raid on northern Israel earlier in the week.

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