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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
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 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.
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 US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid