06/23/2008, 00.00
LEBANON
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Six dead and 40 wounded in second day of clashes in Tripoli

Violence breaks out between a pro-Hizbollah group and Sunni supporters of the Siniora government. In the evening the army announces it will deploy its men and vehicles to separate fighters.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – At least six people have died after fresh fighting erupted yesterday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between pro-Hizbollah activists and pro-government Sunni supporters. Two soldiers were wounded according to Lebanese news agency NNA, the first military to be caught in the cross fire between pro- and anti-government groups. The army has stayed out of the country’s current political or religious confrontations.

The clashes, which began yesterday, continued today in the predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen areas of the city. Traffic on the Tripoli-Akkar highway stopped amid reports that some motorists came under fire.

According to residents the clashes began when an Alawi group attacked an area that supports the Mustqbal party of anti-Syrian alliance leader Saad Hariri, which backs the outgoing Fuad Siniora government. Syrian President Assad belongs to the same Alawi sect.

Clashes spread and news reports said a mortar shell hit Tripoli’s Grand Mansouri Mosque.

Meetings lasted well into Sunday night as Tripoli's Sunni Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar tried to mediate but with little success. Fighting in fact broke out again earlier in the day.

Shaar called on the security forces to deploy in the embattled districts in force and respond firmly to any security violation.

In late morning an announcement was made that 16 local soldiers and police would be deployed.

“Hizbullah is seeking to shift its battle, after invading Beirut, to the Bekaa (where there were clashes last week), and now Tripoli's turn has come,” majority MP Mohammed Kabbara said.

For international observers the violence is linked to the stalled efforts by Prime Minister-designate Fuad Siniora to form a national unity government following an agreement in Doha last month that ended an 18-month political crisis. (PD)

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