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Lebanon: army moves to secure Tripoli

Caretaker Prime Minister Mikati has given the army full responsibility to secure Tripoli for six months

Published: Updated:

Lebanon has given the army full responsibility for security in the restive coastal city of Tripoli for six months, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati told Lebanon’s LBC television on Monday.

Mikati, a Sunni Muslim from Tripoli, told Lebanon’s LBC television he had agreed with President Michel Suleiman and armed forces commander General Jean Qahwaji to “put Tripoli under the complete supervision of the army” for six months.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese premier defended his decision when he wrote on Twitter that Tripoli will not become a “military zone,” but the measure was merely taken to secure the city.

The decision came after 10 people were killed in weekend clashes between Tripoli’s Alawite sect, which supports Syria’s Alawite President Bashar al-Assad, and majority Sunni Muslims who back his foes.

So far this year, sectarian violence in the northern city has killed more than 100 people and paralyzed business activity there.

The 33-month Syrian conflict has exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Some Lebanese Sunnis are fighting alongside anti-Assad rebels, while Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah militia is credited with helping Assad regain the military initiative.

Sunni-Alawite tensions have also festered in Tripoli since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, when Syrian troops then deployed in the country helped Alawites fight their Islamist rivals.

Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict has also increased tensions between Lebanese communities and the more than 800,000 Syrian refugees who have fled to the small country.

On Monday, residents of a village in eastern Lebanon forced hundreds of Syrian refugees from an informal campsite, setting fire to tents after accusing them of raping a mentally-disabled man, Agence France-Presse reported.

But a doctor who examined the man said there was no evidence he was attacked, and one resident of the village said the alleged rape was a pretext to drive the refugees from the site, AFP added.

The informal camp in the eastern Bekaa village of Qsar Naba housed some 400 refugees in around 100 tents and shelters.

On Sunday a group of local residents stormed the camp, setting fire to some of the tents and threatening its residents.

After the attack, many of the refugees began dismantling their shelters and spent Sunday night sleeping in the open nearby.

The residents returned on Monday, the refugees said, setting fire to at least 15 tents and knocking down others.

(With Reuters and AFP)