Five killed by snipers in Lebanon's Tripoli

TRIPOLI, Lebanon Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:23am EST

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TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Five people have been killed by sniper fire since Saturday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, medical and security sources said.

The deaths are the latest round of violence fuelled by sectarian tensions over neighboring Syria's civil war.

Tripoli, 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Syrian border, has been subject to sharp divisions between the Sunni Muslim majority and small Alawite community for decades.

The Lebanese army used "rockets" for the first time to quell the fighting between rival neighborhoods, one security source said, without specifying which weapons were used. Normally, soldiers use assault rifles to target snipers.

The sources said three of the dead belonged to the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh district, whose residents overwhelmingly support the Sunni Muslim rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Two others killed were from the Alawite neighborhood of Jebel Mohsen, which supports fellow Alawite Assad.

Sniper attacks are common along Syria Street, which divides the rival neighborhoods, and adjacent streets.

Sources said 45 people have also been wounded in the past 48 hours in related clashes, including four soldiers. The army has been deployed across the city for months in an effort to quell the violence.

But Tripoli also saw some of the heaviest violence last year. Sectarian fighting in Tripoli killed more than 100 people in the city in 2013. Dozens of people died in gun battles, and twin car bombs at Sunni Muslim mosques in Tripoli killed 42 people in August.

(Reporting By Nazih Saddiq in Tripoli and Stephen Kalin in Beirut Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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