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Two dead and 41 wounded in north Lebanon clashes

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - At least two people were killed and 41 wounded on Wednesday in renewed sectarian clashes in Lebanon’s second largest city Tripoli, security sources said.

Explosions and machinegun fire rocked the city from midnight as Sunni Muslim supporters of the government and Alawite gunmen close to the Shi’ite Hezbollah-led opposition battled on the outskirts of the mainly Sunni Muslim port.

The fighting began after four grenades were fired at a street separating the Sunni Bab Tibbaneh district and Alawite Jabal Mohsen district, scenes of deadly clashes last month.

The sources said two people, one from each side, were killed and 41 were wounded, including two Lebanese soldiers. Army units, which had deployed in the area to end last month’s clashes, appeared to be caught in the crossfire and unable to intervene, they said.

Tripoli is dominated by the country’s anti-Syrian Sunni-led majority coalition while a majority of Alawites maintain close ties to Syria, which is ruled by an Alawite. Alawites are a small offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

Lebanon ended an 18-month political crisis in May with the Western-backed coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition reaching an accord mediated by Qatar. The conflict had led to a violent showdown between the two sides in Beirut.

Delays in the formation of a national unity government, as stipulated in May’s accord, have raised fears of a further deterioration in the security situation.

Writing by Nadim Ladki; Editing by Caroline Drees