TRIPOLI/BEIRUT, Lebanon (Reuters) - Two people were killed in the Lebanese city of Tripoli on Thursday including a military commander from the Alawite minority shot dead on his way to work, security sources said, the latest spasm of violence linked to the Syrian civil war.
In Beirut, a Palestinian man was named as one of two suicide bombers who blew themselves up near the Iranian cultural center in the capital’s southern suburbs on Wednesday, killing at least four other people in other Syria-related violence.
The three-year-long civil war in neighboring Syria has exacerbated tensions in Lebanon between groups sympathetic to the rival sides, posing a major security challenge to a new government that is seeking to stabilize the fragile state.
In Tripoli, the Syria war has fuelled tensions between Alawites loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and Sunni Muslim groups sympathetic to the uprising against him. Assad is also an Alawite, a religion derived from Shi‘ite Islam.
On Thursday morning, gunmen killed Abdel Rahman Youssef, a military leader in the pro-Syrian Arab Democratic Party from Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen district, a day after three other people were wounded in clashes, security and party sources said.
The other man killed was Sunni, the sources said, the circumstances of his death were not immediately clear.
The city, Lebanon’s second largest, was tense after the shooting, with schools shutting their doors and many people keeping away from sites of potential clashes, a witness said.
The twin suicide bomb attack in Beirut on Wednesday was the seventh such bombing in the city’s predominantly Shi‘ite Muslim southern suburbs since last July.
A Sunni militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, describing it as a reprisal for the intervention of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria.
Investigators used DNA samples to identify one of the suicide bombers as Nidal al-Mugheyir, a Palestinian man who security sources said was in his early 20s and had been a follower of hardline Lebanese Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Asir.
Mugheyir was a resident of the mainly Shi‘ite village of Beisareya in southern Lebanon, where villagers torched his family home on Wednesday following reports he was behind the bomb attack.
Reporting by Nazih Siddiq; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz/Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Heavens