News / Middle East

Militias Battle Anew in Lebanon's Tripoli, Army Arrests 21 Fighters

Lebanese army soldiers man a checkpoint as they are deployed in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, Dec. 3, 2013.
Lebanese army soldiers man a checkpoint as they are deployed in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, Dec. 3, 2013.
Reuters
Clashes resumed on Tuesday between Lebanese militias who back opposing sides of Syria's war and 21 fighters were arrested by the army as it pursued a six-month-long mandate to end bloodshed battering the city of Tripoli.
 
The conflict between the majority Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh district and the adjacent Alawite neighborhood of Jebel Mohsen in Tripoli has killed over 100 people this year. But residents, fighters and a local politician told Reuters on Tueaday it was unlikely to end soon despite army efforts.
 
The two neighborhoods have been in on-off conflict since the 1980s but the two-and-a-half-year-old civil war in neighboring Syria pitting Alawite President Bashar al-Assad against majority Sunni rebels has opened old wounds on both sides in Tripoli, and fighting has become more frequent and intense.
 
“They [Alawites] are using big mortar bombs now,” a teenage fighter from Bab al-Tabbaneh said on Tuesday, showing pictures on his mobile of himself holding assault rifles with Sunni Islamist slogans written behind him.
 
The 19-year-old refused to give his name while sheltering from the rain in the Taqwa mosque, one of two Sunni religious compounds hit by bombs in August that killed 42 people and angered Sunni fighters even more.
 
Over the weekend, the relatives of the car bomb victims protested in a Tripoli square, demanding that leading Alawite political leaders be arrested and calling for Jebel Mohsen's electricity and water supplies to be cut off.
 
The latest clashes started after repeated attacks on Alawite targets over the last week in which several people were wounded. Ten people were killed over the weekend. The army provided no details on the 21 militiamen seized by soldiers.
 
Reuters was unable to speak to fighters and residents in Jebel Mohsen because the roads to it were cut off by sniper fire on both sides.
 
Wider Battle
 
Analysts say that the seemingly pointless battle in which neither side gains ground is being directed by regional powers who fund militia to send political messages and assert their control over Lebanon, a weak sectarian-run state wrecked by its own civil war from 1975 to 1990.
 
“Lebanon is not a sovereign country,” said Beirut-based political scientist Hilal Khashan. “Each sect has foreign patrons and they know they need foreign patrons; this country is run from the outside.”
 
Misbah Ahdab, a Sunni Tripoli politician from a secular party, said the local battle was a “regional fight between Iran and the Gulf.”
 
Sunni Saudi Arabia is locked in a struggle with Shi'ite Iran for influence across the Middle East. In Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries support the rebels while Iran backs Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ism.
 
Tiny, coastal Lebanon has suffered from violent spillovers of the Syrian conflict, especially in Tripoli.
 
Barring a wider regional political compromise, Ahdab said, no security measures could stop the fighting in Tripoli, especially as militia on both sides had been given “protection” by Lebanese politicians aligned with either the Gulf or Iran.
 
Sheik Bilal, a middle-aged Sunni fighter, questioned the government's credibility in imposing security in the city. “We have had 700,000 'security plans' before [but] these are all lies.”
 
The fighting has worsened the plight of local residents. A former industrial center and 70 km (40 miles) from the capital Beirut, Tripoli is now plagued by poverty and unemployment.
 
A toy shop owner who works near the front line opened his shutters on Tuesday to speak to journalists but said that business had all but ended.

“Everyone knows the criminals who are fighting but they are not arrested. They are protected.”

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid