Beirut clashes kill 1 amid fear of Syria spillover

Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, which are easily enflamed.

Beirut: Overnight clashes in Beirut between Sunni Muslim groups that support and oppose the regime in Damascus left one person dead and 10 wounded as fears rose further of a spillover from the Syrian conflict, Lebanese security officials said on Monday.

The violence in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Tariq Jadidah was among Beirut`s worst in the past four years. It erupted hours after an anti-Syrian cleric and his bodyguard were shot dead at a checkpoint in northern Lebanon, an incident that instantly spiked tensions even as far as the Lebanese capital.

Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, which are easily enflamed. Last week, clashes sparked by the Syrian crisis killed at least eight people and wounded dozens in the northern city of Tripoli.

The revolt in Syria began 15 months ago, and there are fears the unrest will lead to a regional conflagration that could draw in neighbouring countries. The UN estimates the conflict has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011.

The circumstances surrounding yesterday`s shooting death of Sunni cleric Sheik Ahmed Abdul-Wahid and his bodyguard in northern Lebanon remained unclear but the state-run National News Agency said they appeared to have been killed by soldiers after their convoy failed to stop at an Army checkpoint.

The cleric`s funeral was scheduled for later today in the northern region of Akkar.

The Lebanese Army yesterday issued a statement, saying it deeply regretted the incident and that a committee will investigate.

The clashes in Beirut subsided around 4 am (local time) today after anti-Syrian gunmen took control of the headquarters of the pro-Syrian Arab Movement Party.

Residents in the neighbourhood said the streets were mostly empty today morning as many parents did not send children to schools and some shops did not open.

Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said that the man who was killed was a member of the Arab Movement Party.


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