TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AFP) – Lebanese troops attacked gunmen holed up in the historic market of the northern city of Tripoli Saturday, after deadly clashes rocked the longtime tourist attraction, an AFP correspondent reported.
A gunman was killed, and nine soldiers and eight civilian bystanders wounded, in the fighting that erupted in the city’s souks late on Friday, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
It was the first time since the civil war in neighbouring Syria erupted in 2011 that violence in Tripoli had spread to the market, which is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
The AFP correspondent heard shelling and heavy gunfire as the army launched its assault on the gunmen’s positions.
Troops attempted to evacuate families trapped inside the market, where many of the shops have been burned down in the fighting.
Among the wounded civilians was a Lebanese newspaper journalist.
Tripoli has seen repeated clashes between militants sympathetic to the rebels in neighbouring Syria and Alawites who back the Damascus regime.
Militants in the city have also carried out multiple attacks against the Lebanese army, accusing it of cooperating with Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
But the clashes that erupted on Friday marked the first time that the violence has spread to the souks, which once drew many foreign tourists.