Lebanon army fights Islamist gunmen in Tripoli for second day

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2014 8:31 AM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese soldiers clashed with Islamist gunmen in the northern city of Tripoli for a second day on Saturday, moving against the militants who holed up in a part of the Old City.

Soldiers exchanged heavy fire with the militants, whose exact affiliation was unclear, and had surrounded them by midday, security sources said.

Three soldiers were wounded in separate fighting on Saturday when gunmen opened fire on an army vehicle near the northern village of Bahneen, the sources said.

At least two militants were killed and six soldiers were wounded during earlier fighting in Tripoli late on Friday.

Tripoli has seen some of the worst spillover from the 3-1/2-year-old war in neighboring Syria, whose border is only about 30 km (20 miles) north up the coast from the ancient port city. Gun battles and bombings linked to the conflict have regularly broken out.

In statements published by the National News Agency, the army leadership said: "The pursuit of terrorist gunmen in Tripoli is continuing and will not be pulled back until after the terrorists are eliminated."

Tripoli has long been a stronghold for hardline Sunni Islamists, many of whom accuse Lebanon's army of working with Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Shi'ite-derived Alawite minority, against majority Sunni rebels.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Angus MacSwan)