Clashes in northern Lebanon kill 1, wound 13
BEIRUT—Lebanese troops battled Islamic militants in the northern city of Tripoli for a second day Saturday, with one person killed and 13 wounded in the clashes, the Lebanese army and state media said.
An army statement said troops have surrounded the gunmen in Tripoli’s old market and are trying to detain them. The clashes in Lebanon’s second largest city began Friday night, and on Saturday residents said they could hear gunfire and sporadic explosions.
The fighting came after troops killed three militants and detained a local leader in a raid in the northern Dinniyeh region. One of the three killed was Abdul-Qadir Akkoumi, a Lebanese soldier who announced in a video released earlier this month that he had defected and joined the Islamic State group, the army said.
“It was a very fierce night,” said a Tripoli resident who asked that his name not be published because of security concerns. Speaking by telephone, the man said the city’s streets were mostly empty Saturday and people avoided going near the historic market where the fighting was concentrated.
The Lebanese army said eight soldiers were wounded in the clashes. The state-run National News Agency said one civilian was killed and five civilians were also wounded. It was not immediately if there were casualties among the gunmen.
Also on Saturday, gunmen opened fire at a Lebanese army vehicle in the town of Bhannine, just north of Tripoli, wounding three soldiers, two security officials said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. They said the army sent reinforcements to the area after the shooting.
Sunni militants inspired by Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State extremist group have killed and wounded several soldiers in a string of attacks in recent months.
The deadliest was in August, when jihadi fighters from Syria briefly overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal, capturing some 20 policemen and soldiers and killing several others. That attack was the most serious spillover of the civil war in neighboring Syria since the uprising there began in March 2011.
Lebanon is bitterly divided over the war, with Sunnis supporting the Syrian rebels and Shiites siding with President Bashar Assad’s government. The Shiite movement Hezbollah has sent fighters to support Assad’s troops. Sunni militants in Lebanon have responded with attacks on Shiites as well as security forces, who they believe are secretly dominated by Hezbollah.