Army executes security plan to end Tripoli unrest

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A security plan to end hostilities in Tripoli, north Lebanon, got under way overnight in an effort to restore order after fighting between pro- and anti-Assad groups in the city claimed the lives of at least 17 people, security sources said Monday.

The plan, launched at 10 p.m. Sunday, saw the deployment of the military in the hot spots of Jabal Mohsen, where fighters who support Syrian President Bashar Assad have waged intensive clashes with their rivals in Bab al-Tabbaneh, a neighborhood that staunchly backs the uprising in Lebanon’s neighbor.

Upon deployment, Jabal Mohsen residents went out on to the streets to welcome the troops, with some offering soldiers the traditional Manqoushe, a baked flatbread topped with cheese or thyme.

At 5 a.m. Monday morning, troops in Armored Personnel Carriers, Humvees and trucks, deployed around Harba Mosque and Al-Asmar Square in Bab al-Tabbaneh in line with the security plan, which was announced during a meeting of the Higher Defense Council Sunday.

Bab al-Tabbaneh residents also welcomed, cautiously, the deployment.

Guns fell silent after the Army deployment took effect beginning Sunday evening.

Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city, has been rocked by several rounds of sectarian violence in past months linked to divisions over the 20-month-old conflict in Syria.

The latest round of fighting has left at least 17 dead and almost 80 wounded.

“The Army was empowered to take measures to consolidate security in Tripoli and prevent renewal of fighting,” Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, who attended the Higher Defense Council meeting, told The Daily Star Sunday.

The security meeting at Baabda Palace also coincided with calls from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to end the violence in Tripoli.

Security sources told The Daily Star Monday that two Alawite residents from Jabal Mohsen were released a few hours after they were kidnapped Sunday night. They said the release came following intensified efforts by Lebanese Army Intelligence.

The violence in Tripoli came days after fighters from the city were slain in a Syrian army ambush in Tal Kalakh, which lies near the border with Lebanon. There have been conflicting reports on the exact number of men who were killed.

Syrian security officials Sunday handed over the bodies of three of the slain Lebanese fighters.

Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour was informed in a letter Saturday that three of the slain fighters would be returned to Lebanon Sunday. The letter added that the remaining bodies of Lebanese fighters would be returned in several stages for “logistical reasons.”

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