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Sectarian tension hangs over Lebanon city PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 02 August 2008

REUTERS, TRIPOLI- In Tripoli's most deprived areas, Lebanon's lingering political troubles are being fought out in a sectarian conflict that threatens to cause more bloodshed.

Scorched building facades indicate the frontlines of heavy battles between gunmen in the Sunni Muslim Bab Tibbaneh district and fighters in Jabal Mohsen -- a neighboring hill which is home to Tripoli's Alawite minority.

"After the battles, there is blood on the ground. Things will get worse," said Mohammed al-Saloum, one of hundreds of Bab Tibbaneh residents forced from their homes by fighting which has killed 22 people in the past two months. "There is fear."

The battles have underlined the risk of more volatility in Lebanon, which was pulled from the jaws of a new civil war in May by a Qatari-brokered deal.

The country's rival alliances -- one led by Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri and the other by Shi'ite group Hezbollah -- have haltingly implemented the Doha agreement. They formed a national unity government last month.

But they are far from full reconciliation.

Residents in Tripoli, where Hariri has wide influence, say they are paying the price through a conflict between an Alawite faction linked to Hezbollah and an array of Sunni groups.

"This struggle calms down for a while, then it opens up again," said Bilal Matar, a Sunni figure from Bab Tibbaneh. "The open wound is still there."

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