Calm returns to Lebanon after three days of violent clashes

Calm returns to Lebanon after three days of violent clashes

Lebanese troops and police patrol streets to prevent sectarian fighting that ravaged Sunni neighborhoods in Tripoli for three days

A Sunni gunman fires during running gun battles in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon. (photo credit: AP/Hussein Malla)
A Sunni gunman fires during running gun battles in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon. (photo credit: AP/Hussein Malla)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) — Lebanese troops deployed Tuesday in tense areas of the northern city of Tripoli after three days of sectarian clashes killed at least six people in a spillover of the 14-month-long conflict in neighboring Syria.

Since the early hours of the day, Lebanese army and police forces started patrolling the city as residents began to reopen their shops and check their property for damages.

Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, which are easily enflamed. Tripoli — Lebanon’s second largest city — has seen bouts of sectarian violence in the past, but the fighting has become more frequent as the conflict in Syria worsens.

The city’s fighting camps break down along sectarian and political lines. On one side are Sunni Muslims who support the rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. On the other are members of the tiny Alawite sect, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam who are Assad’s most loyal supporters.

An Associated Press reporter in Tripoli said no gunmen were seen in the streets and life was returning to normal along Syria Street, which splits the mainly Sunni Bab Tabbaneh neighborhood and the Alawite-majority Jabal Mohsen. Much of the clashes had taken place around Syria street.

The clashes pitted neighbor against neighbor and left at least six people dead and 100 wounded in the gunbattles that erupted late Saturday. Police Brig. Gen. Bassam Ayoubi said troops deployment came after intense contacts with Tripoli’s political and religious leaders.

“Any gunmen detained will be referred to military prosecutors,” Ayoubi warned.

Meanwhile, across the border in Syria, Khalaf al-Azzawi, the chairman of the country’s Higher Committee of the Elections, released the results of last week’s parliamentary elections. Al-Azzawi said the voter turnout was 51.26 percent.

The elections were the first under a new constitution, adopted three months ago, that allows political parties to compete with Assad’s ruling Baath party. The new constitution also limits the president to two seven-year terms.

The government has praised the vote as a milestone in promised political reforms, but the opposition boycotted the polls and said they were orchestrated by the regime to strengthen Assad’s grip on power.

Al-Azzawi did not give a breakdown or say how many of the 250-member legislature’s seats were won by the 10 parties of the National Progressive Front, an alliance dominated by the ruling Baath party.

Among the winners were Qadri Jamil and Omar Ossi, two politicians who describe themselves as opposition figures. Thirty women also won seats, a similar figure to that of the outgoing parliament.

Also Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees activist groups said at least three people were killed in an explosion in the coastal city of Banias, home to Syria’s one of two oil refineries.

The Observatory said the explosion destroyed a building but the nature of the blast is still not clear.

Both groups also reported government troops shooting in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour near the border with Iraq that left at least three people dead.

In Egypt, an Arab League officials said that a meeting of Syrian opposition groups that was scheduled to take place in Cairo on Wednesday has been postponed for two weeks, to allow time for better preparation.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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