Lebanese army vows to stamp out unrest

7 killed in Beirut, Tripoli clashes

At least seven people were killed and dozens wounded in gunbattles in the Lebanese capital Beirut and coastal Tripoli on Monday in further unrest linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria, security and hospital sources said.

The clashes have heightened fears that Syria's civil war with its sectarian dimensions is now spreading into Lebanon, pitting local allies and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against each other.

The Lebanese army promised decisive action to quell the violence, which was touched off by the assassination of a senior intelligence officer last week.

That killing has plunged Lebanon into a political crisis and the army command urged party leaders to be cautious in their public statements so as not to inflame passions further.

It issued the warning after troops and gunmen exchanged fire in Beirut's southern suburbs overnight and on Monday morning while protesters blocked roads with burning tyres.

Many politicians have accused Syria of being behind the killing of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, an intelligence chief opposed to the Syrian leadership, who was blown up by a car bomb in central Beirut on Friday.

Opposition leaders want Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign, saying he is too close to Assad and his Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah, which is part of Mikati's government.
The worst of the clashes since late Sunday took place in the northern city of Tripoli, the scene of previous fighting between Sunni Muslims backing the Syrian insurgents and Alawites sympathetic to Assad.

Six people were killed and about 50 wounded in fighting between the Sunni neighbourhood of Tabbaneh and the Alawite Jebel Mohsen, security and hospital sources said. The two sides exchanged rocket and gunfire, residents said.

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