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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, October 18, 2018


Lebanese forces reclaim Tripoli centre from ISIS linked militants

The battle has now shifted to a Sunni neighbourhood of the city

Share on Facebook October 27, 2014, Reporter : BigNewsNet, Reader : 537


TRIPOLI, Lebanon - The Lebanese army has launched an intense counter assault against Sunni militants in the second-largest city Tripoli, forcing a retreat from the Old City on a third day of fighting Sunday.

The battle has now shifted to a Sunni neighbourhood of the city, with the army moving in tanks and armoured vehicles, according to local and international media reports.

At least five soldiers and two civilians have died in the fighting thus far, although it is unclear how many fatalities have been inflicted on the militant's side.

The Sunni fighters are thought to be linked to ISIS and al-Qaedan and have threatened to kill soldiers they have captured unless the army halts its operations.

"We warn the Lebanese army against any military escalation targeting Sunnis in Tripoli," the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, said in a statement quoted by AFP news agency.

"We call on it to lift its siege and accept a peaceful solution, or else we will be forced in the coming hours to bring closure to the issue of the soldiers we are holding hostage, given that they are prisoners of war," the statement added.

The conflict erupted on Friday after an incident in an outlying village on Thursday in which three militants allegedly linked to ISIS were killed by Lebanese security forces.

Developments over the weekend marked the first time the ISIS-linked militants had occupied the historic heart of Tripoli, the Old City, necessitating a strong response from the central government in Beirut.

Fighting raged in the Old City's bazaar, a candidate for Unesco world heritage status, throughout Saturday. By the end of the day, the army said it had arrested a number of armed men there and seized weapons and ammunition.

Reports on Sunday suggested the militants had retreated into the Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood, after government troops including commandos attacked with tanks and armoured vehicles.

Tripoli, like the rest of Lebanon, is sharply divided along largely sectarian lines between supporters and opponents of the regime in Syria, a country that is itself being ravaged by a largely sectarian conflict.

The militants fighting in Tripoli have accused the Lebanese army of supporting the Shia Hezbollah movement, a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Lebanon announced Friday it would no longer accept refugees from war-torn Syria, saying it had reached saturation point. The small coastal country has taken in more than 1.1-million refugees, adding almost 25% to its population of around 4-million.

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