TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Clashes broke out in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Tuesday between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in neighboring Syria’s civil war, wounding two people, residents said.
Tensions had been building since the reported death of at least 14 Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen from north Lebanon in a Syrian town close to the border. They appeared to have joined insurgents prosecuting a 20-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian state television has aired graphic video footage of the dead men, riddled with gunshot wounds and lying in the grass.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour asked the Syrian ambassador to hand over the bodies of the men after their families protested in Tripoli, demanding that the Lebanese government return the corpses and determine the whereabouts of those missing.
Tripoli’s sectarian makeup has made it a flashpoint within Lebanon where violence from Syria has sometimes spilled over. The Syrian uprising is mostly being waged by Sunni Muslims and largely opposed by minorities like Assad’s own Alawite sect.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni city and mostly supports the uprising next door, but the coastal city has an Alawite minority and clashes have erupted several times since the revolt began.
Residents said violence flared overnight when rocket-propelled grenades were fired by gunmen in the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen.
Fighting then broke out on Tuesday morning after Sunni gunmen approached some Alawite shops. Two people were wounded in Jabal Mohsen by sniper fire, a security source and residents said.
Reporting by Nazih Siddiq in Tripoli and Erika Solomon, Oliver Holmes and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Andrew Osborn