Lebanon security forces launch new push to halt Tripoli violence

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 01, 2014 10:27 AM

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Lebanese security forces set up checkpoints and patrols in the northern city of Tripoli, raided homes and arrested more than 20 people in a push to control sectarian violence fuelled by the war in Syria.

At least 27 people have been killed over the past three weeks in Tripoli in clashes between Sunni Muslims and members of the Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shi'ite Islam.

The long-standing rivalry between the two sides has been worsened by the violence in Syria, which is sunk in a three-year-old conflict that has killed over 150,000 people and become increasingly sectarian.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite and the rebels fighting to overthrow him are overwhelmingly Sunni.

On Tuesday, Lebanese security forces raided homes of several figures suspected of involvement in the fighting, including Alawite Rifaat Eid and Ali Eid and Sunni Islamist preacher Omar Bakri, security sources and state media said.

Security forces arrested at least 23 people, confiscated light weapons and deployed at entrances and in neighbourhoods around the city.

But by late afternoon they had not deployed in the Sunni area of Bab al-Tebbaneh, where hundreds of residents protested against the army entering the area.

Lebanon's current cabinet was formed in February after nearly a year of political deadlock. The appointment of the new government has raised expectations authorities will bring violence related to Syria under control.

About 1 million Syrian refugees have fled into Lebanon - about a quarter of the country's population - and the country has been hit by rocket attacks, car bombs, gun battles and kidnappings related to the conflict.

The powerful Lebanese Shi'ite political and military movement Hezbollah has sent fighters to Syria to aid Assad.

(Reporting by Nazih Siddiq,; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz, Editing by Angus MacSwan)