Army tanks on Beirut streets after clashes over Syria


A  tense calm prevailed Monday across the Lebanese capital following overnight clashes between pro and anti-Syrian Sunni-Muslim groups, which left two people dead and 18 injured, the state-run Lebanese News agency said.

Troops backed by tanks were deployed across the city, especially in areas where clashes pitted two Sunni factions against each other – one that opposes Syria‘s President Bashar al-Assad against another that is loyal to a Sunni political figure, Shaker Berjawi, who supports the Syrian president.

The clashes occurred in the Beirut neighborhood of Tarek Jadidah, raising fears that the 15-month unrest in neighboring Syria was spilling over the border into Lebanon.

The street battles came few hours after a Sunni cleric, Ahmed Abdel Wahed, who backed the uprising against al-Assad, was killed along with his aide at a army checkpoint in the Lebanese northern region of Koueikhat.

The killing of the cleric sparked wide condemnation and saw the sheikh‘s followers block major roads in the capital, and northern and eastern parts of the country.

Many schools and universities across the city decided to close Monday to avoid friction among the Lebanese students, while the Grand Sunni Mufti of Lebanon, Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, called for a three-day general strike across the country and for three days of mourning over the slain Sheikh.

The funeral of Sheikh Abdel Wahed is due to take place later Monday amid tight security.

The Lebanese army said it was investigating the death of the cleric, which occurred near the northern port city of Tripoli, where Sunni Muslims last week fought deadly clashes with Alawite supporters of al-Assad that left at least 10 people dead.

The Syrian crisis has divided Lebanon between the Western and Arab-backed opposition and the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, which dominates the Lebanese government and is allied with Syria and Iran. DPA

Update: Voice of Lebanon radio station reported on Monday that the two people killed Sunday in street battles in Beirut were Mohammad Sharab, 30-years-old and Mohammad Youssef Bou Tah, 31.