Syria-linked clashes in Lebanese city
Beirut, May 13, 2012
Two people were killed when fighting erupted overnight in the Lebanese city of Tripoli between members of the Alawite minority loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and members of the Sunni majority.
Rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles were used in the fighting in an Alawite enclave and surrounding Sunni neighbourhoods in the port city, 70 km (44 miles) north of Beirut.
'The clashes peaked at dawn. The sound of gunfire is still echoing in the city,' a Lebanese security official said.
The fighting underlines how sectarian tensions in Syria could spill over to neighbouring Lebanon.
A small Alawite minority are concentrated in Tripoli, a conservative Sunni city where many residents have been enraged by Assad's crackdown on the 14-month revolt against 42 years of rule by the Assad family and their Alawite establishment.
Syria's Sunni majority are at the forefront of the uprising against Assad, whose sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon under international pressure in 2005 after a 29-year presence, but Assad retains big influence in the small but geopolitically important country through his main ally, the Shi'ite guerrilla group Hezbollah, the only Lebanese party that has an officially approved arsenal. -Reuters