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14 May, 2012 19:41

Deadly clashes in Lebanon raise fears of Syria-like conflict

At least five people have been killed and over 15 injured in Tripoli, Lebanon during the three days of sectarian violence. Many say the clashes could be a sign of Syrian turmoil spilling over the border.

Three people were killed over the weekend and two more, including a soldier, on Monday.Insurgents involved in the fighting fired assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Lebanese authorities have deployed military units to the area to cool it down.Reports say dozens of families have fled Tripoli fearing the security situation there could worsen.The conflict erupted on Saturday between the Alawite minority, which backs the government of Bashar al-Assad, and Sunni Muslims seen as linked to the Syrian uprising.Lebanon shares political and sectarian ties with Syria, as well as rivalries. President Assad belongs to the Alawite minority, while the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims.The unrest in the country has escalated Sunni-Alawite tensions in Lebanon, sparking the clashes in conservative Sunni Tripoli, where Alawites live side by side with Sunnis. RT's Paula Slier reports that tensions have risen after authorities detained Lebanese national Shadi Mawlawi, an outspoken critic of Assad, who was accused of ties to terrorist groups.The arrest outraged Tripoli's Sunni population, which took to the streets in protest. Clashes soon erupted between Sunni protesters and the Alawites. Mark Almond, a professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Turkey, told RT that the Syrian turmoil could certainly spill over into Lebanon.“Lebanon obviously has a history of civil war… particularly because of the role of Lebanon as the key route into Syria for arms and technological equipment for the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups… many Lebanese fear the victory of one particular faction in Syria,” he explained.Many Shiites in Lebanon fear that the Sunni fundamentalist groups, “who are the mainstay behind the anti-Assad forces in Syria, would use a victory in Syria to assert domination over them,” Almond noted.