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At least six killed as Lebanese militia groups clash in Tripoli

July 26, 2008|From Reuters

TRIPOLI, LEBANON — , -- At least six people were killed Friday in heavy clashes between sectarian factions in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli, medical sources said.

An additional 50 people were wounded as gunmen from the Sunni Bab Tibbaneh district and the Alawite Jabal Mohsen area of Tripoli fought. Residents fled as the fighters exchanged machine-gun and grenade fire.

At least 19 people in the mostly Sunni city have died in the last two months in sectarian violence linked to Lebanon's political troubles. A military source said Friday's casualties included a soldier who was seriously wounded.

The Tripoli fighting has cast a shadow over a deal that ended a bitter political conflict between Lebanon's Sunni-led governing coalition and an opposition alliance led by the Shiite organization Hezbollah, which is close to Alawite groups in the north.

The rivals formed a unity government on July 11 after weeks of wrangling. But they are now at odds over the government's policy statement.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, used its fighters to briefly seize West Beirut and rout supporters of the anti-Damascus governing coalition in May. The move helped Hezbollah impose its terms for an end to the conflict.

The Alawite faith is a small sect of Shiite Islam. Many of its adherents are based in Syria, whose president, Bashar Assad, is an Alawite.

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