Seven dead in Syria-linked violence: Lebanon

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iol pic wld Mideast Lebanon~11 AP File picture: A Sunni gunman holds his machine gun as he stands at Syria Street which divides the Sunni and Alawite areas, in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon.

Tripoli, Lebanon -

Sniper fire killed seven civilians in Syria-linked violence in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli on Tuesday and Wednesday, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Sectarian tensions in Tripoli, the country's second city, have soared since the outbreak of Syria's revolt nearly 21 months ago.

Intermittent clashes have pitted Sunni Muslim districts against areas housing Alawites, from the same religious community as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The latest clashes that erupted on Tuesday began four days after 22 Sunni men from Tripoli who had joined rebels battling Assad's forces were killed by soldiers in the central Syrian province of Homs.

The violence has left seven dead in just two days, the security official said. Four were killed on Wednesday, while three others died the day before.

“Khodr Hanoub, a man in his 40s, was killed at dawn Wednesday in the (Sunni) district of Bab al-Tebbaneh,” the official said, adding that Ali Habbabeh was killed in the Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen.

The official also reported the killing in Bab al-Tebbaneh of Zakaria Othman and Mehdi al-Beik on Wednesday, while Khaled Salem, 27, was killed overnight.

They died a day after kiosk owner Mohammed Ibrahim, 65, was killed in Jabal Mohsen by a sniper operating from across the street-turned-front line separating the two impoverished neighbourhoods.

Also on Tuesday, Bab al-Tebbaneh resident Abdel Rahman Nasouh was shot dead.

While there was a lull in fighting on Wednesday, snipers held their positions and continued to shoot, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

The official reported 57 people wounded altogether, including two soldiers.

Lebanon's population is deeply divided over Syria, with Shiite movement Hezbollah, its allies and supporters bitterly opposed to the revolt, and the Sunni-led March 14 movement backing it.

Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Damascus for nearly 30 years, until the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri prompted international outrage and forced A Syrian pullout.

Near-daily clashes in border areas pit Hezbollah supporters against anti-Assad rebels, residents and activists say. - Sapa-AFP

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