Naharnet

Army Deploys in Baalbek after Clashes between Hizbullah, Armed Men Kill 5

Five people were killed on Saturday after clashes broke out between Hizbullah members and al-Shiyyah clan in the Bekaa city of Baalbek.

“An exchange of fire occurred between armed men in al-Qalaa market in Baalbek, using light arms,” the army command said in a communique.

The statement added that three people were killed and other were injured in the clashes.

“An army unit swiftly deployed in the area and raided suspicious locations,” the army added.

Later on Saturday, the army issued another statement confirming that the troops continued their deployment in the Bekaa city, and have adopted intensified security measures to restore security and stability in Baalbek.

The communique revealed that a soldier was gravely injured while at his home in the city.

“Several fugitives were arrested in the raids staged by the troops,” the statement pointed out, warning that all gunmen and armed presence will be “strictly prosecuted.”

“The Army Command urges the residents of the city and its prominent figures to exercise self-restraint and cooperate with the measures adopted by the military institution to avoid an escalation.”

The state-run National News Agency reported that Ali Sami al-Masri, who was riding a motorcycle in the market, was killed in the clashes.

Two of the wounded people were identified as Ahmed Toufiq Hassan (hand wound), Mohammed al-Shiyyah (chest wound), Yasser Saeed, Abdul Nasser Jary (head wound), and Ali Mahmoud Wehbe.

Several shops were set ablaze in the area.

LBCI television said that Hizbullah member Imad Ballouq was killed in the clash, while the National News Agency identified the other victims as Hisham Wehbe and Ali Mustapha al-Rifai, who is a vegetable vendor.

Later, the news agency reported that Mohammed Ali Soleh was killed by sniper gunfire in the renewal of clashes, bringing the death toll to five.

The unrest broke out when youths from the Shiyyah clan opened fire at Hizbullah members in the market, reported NNA.

The party members fired back, resulting in the ensuing clashes.

NNA said Saturday's attack was in retaliation to a shooting between the two sides in the Baalbek market on Wednesday.

The bloodshed is the worst sectarian violence to hit Baalbek, and it was the second clash in the city since Wednesday involving Hizbullah and Sunni gunmen.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the clashes on Wednesday and Saturday, but both happened at a checkpoint manned by Hizbullah.

Hizbullah members took to the streets of Baalbek after the clashes, an Agence France Presse correspondent said, adding that five Sunni-owned shops were torched by unknown arsonists.

A security official said the three-hour firefight also spread close to the ancient Roman archaeological site.

Hizboullah has set up checkpoints in the Baalbek region after deadly bombings tore through its main southern Beirut stronghold in July and August.

Fifty people were wounded in the first attack and 27 killed in the second.


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