x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Soldiers clash with protesters in Lebanon

Lebanese troops exchanged fire late Saturday with a group of young Islamists protesting in Tripoli, for the release of a terrorism suspect.

Lebanese troops exchanged fire late Saturday with a group of young Islamists protesting in Tripoli, the second-largest city in Lebanon, for the release of a terrorism suspect.

In a separate incident in the early hours of Sunday, one man was killed in clashes between Tripoli's largely Sunni Muslim district of Kobbe, hostile to the Syrian regime, and members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite community.

Such incidents are frequent. The outbreak of gunfire between the Islamists and the army happened as the youths, sympathisers with the ongoing revolt in Syria, tried to approach the offices of the pro-Assad Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

There were no reports of casualties. Earlier Saturday around 10O young men, mostly Islamists, blocked the northern and southern roads into Tripoli , demanding the release of a fellow resident accused of terrorism.

The protesters set up camp at the southern entrance of Tripoli, the largest city in northern Lebanon. Black flags bearing the profession of Islam, "God is Great", were planted alongside the Syrian flag of independence, a symbol of revolt in the neighbouring country. "We will not leave until my brother is released," Nizar al-Mawlawi, whose 27-year-old brother Shadi was arrested by Lebanese security forces on Saturday.

According to a statement from the Lebanese security services, Shadi al-Mawlawi was arrested as part of an "investigation into his ties to a terrorist organisation," without going into details. Syrian authorities have repeatedly charged that arms and fighters are being smuggled in from Lebanon to help the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.

Lebanon is divided between the opposition, backed by Washington and hostile to the Syrian regime, and the camp of the Shiite group Hezbollah, which dominates the government and is supported by Damascus and Tehran.