June 23, 2008 / 6:50 AM / 11 years ago

Fighting rages in north Lebanon for second day

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Sectarian fighting raged for a second day in north Lebanon on Monday, further denting a Qatari-brokered deal to end the country’s political crisis.

Lebanese Sunni Muslim gunmen walk on a street in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, June 22, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim

Security sources said nine people had been killed and 50 wounded in the clashes in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city.

The fighting, which broke out at dawn on Sunday, continued on the outskirts of the mainly Sunni Muslim port city despite a ceasefire agreement between Sunni supporters of the government and Alawite gunmen close to the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Several homes, shops and cars were damaged in fighting around the Sunni Bab Tibbaneh district and Alawite Jabal Mohsen.

The warring sides exchanged machinegun fire, grenades and mortar bombs. Scores of families fled and sought safe haven in other parts of the city and nearby villages.

The Lebanese army was in contact with both sides to arrange for the ceasefire to be respected, the sources said.

Tripoli is dominated by Lebanon’s anti-Syrian Sunni-led majority coalition while a majority of Alawites have close ties to Syria, which is ruled by an Alawite and is allied to the opposition.

Alawites are a small offshoot of Shi’ite Islam which dominates the Baathist government in neighbouring Syria. Their numbers are small in Lebanon but they gained some political clout during Syria’s military presence in Lebanon.

Last month Lebanon ended its 18-month political crisis with the Western-backed coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition reaching a Qatari-mediated accord. The conflict had led to a violent showdown that threatened a new civil war.

Since then there have been frequent minor security incidents.

Delays in forming a national unity government as stipulated in last month’s accord have raised fears of a further deterioration in the security situation and a collapse in efforts to resolve the political standoff.

Writing by Nadim Ladki; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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