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Sunni sheikh killed in new north Lebanon clashes

Sunni sheikh killed in new north Lebanon clashes

Tripoli: A young Sunni sheikh was killed in the north Lebanon city of Tripoli early Friday as new clashes erupted between pro- and anti-Syrian factions dashing a tenuous truce.

Sheikh Khaled al-Baradei, 28, was killed when fierce fighting broke out at dawn between residents of the anti- Syrian Sunni Muslim Qobbeh district and the neighbouring pro- Damascus Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen, an AFP correspondent said.

The exchanges of rocket-propelled grenade and rocket fire sparked large fires in the two neighbourhoods in the east of the Mediterranean port city, Lebanon's second largest.

The sheikh's death brought to 12 the number of people killed in clashes in the city over the past five days, stoking fears of a major spillover of violence from neighbouring Syria.

A further 86 people have been wounded.

Several families displaced by the fighting had returned to the districts last afternoon to inspect the damage to their homes, as the truce had appeared to take hold.

Hundreds of soldiers with tanks and military vehicles were deployed on the aptly named Syria Street - which acts both as the dividing line between the two districts and as the frontline when fighting erupts.

A wave of kidnappings preceded the latest round of fighting and rattled the already fragile security situation in Lebanon, which lived under three decades of Syrian domination.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a native of Tripoli, on Wednesday raised fresh concern over "efforts to drag Lebanon more and more into the conflict in Syria when what is required is for leaders to cooperate ... To protect Lebanon from the danger."

The authorities have instructed the army and security forces "to bring the situation under control, to prohibit any armed presence and to arrest those implicated" in the violence, he said in a statement.


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