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Terrorism & Security

Tripoli blast further strains Lebanese tensions

A sectarian power struggle in northern Lebanon is growing increasingly deadly, raising concerns it could lead to more violence throughout the country.

By David Montero / September 30, 2008

A bomb attack in Tripoli, coming just days after a suicide bombing in Syria that was probably the work of Sunni Muslim extremists, is heightening sectarian tensions in northern Lebanon.

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The targets of the latest bombings were Lebanese soldiers, The Daily Star of Lebanon reports.

A devastating explosion ripped through a bus packed with Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) soldiers in Tripoli on Monday, killing at least five people and wounding at least 33 others. The blast happened during the morning rush hour, at about 7.45 a.m., in the Al-Bahsas area of the city. A parked car rigged with explosives was remotely detonated as the bus passed by. About 20 soldiers were traveling in the bus at the time of the explosion, and four were killed, along with a civilian passer-by.

Bloomberg reports the attacks point to a wider sectarian battle, pitting Sunnis against Shiites.

A wave of sectarian strife is besetting Lebanon's second-largest city, raising the risk of another nationwide civil war as rivalry between Muslim Sunnis and Shiites spreads across the Middle East....
There's "a fierce power struggle" between Sunnis and Shiites in Tripoli, said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, author of "Hizbullah: Politics and Religion," a history of the militant Shiite movement. "The situation has already been seen to be dangerous and is getting more so."...
The Sunnis' attacks in Tripoli were retaliation against the Shiite takeover of western parts of Lebanon's capital, Beirut, four months ago. Hezbollah pulled out of the area after winning effective veto power over the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni.

Violence has flared in and around Tripoli since last summer, explains Al-Ahram weekly, an English newspaper published in Egypt.

[L]ast summer, soldiers fought a 16-week battle with Al-Qaeda-inspired militant group Fatah Al-Islam, losing 170 soldiers. The gunmen, of Lebanese, Palestinian and other Arab nationalities, were holed up in the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, just north of Tripoli. Fatah Al-Islam leader Shaker Al-Abssi and other fighters slipped away during the battle and remain at large. The fighting levelled the camp, home to roughly 30,000 Palestinians.

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