- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 26, 2008

BEIRUT (AP) | Sectarian clashes broke out Friday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, killing six people, including a 10-year-old boy and a policeman, and wounding at least 15, officials said.

The clashes between Sunni Muslim gunmen and Alawites, an offshoot Shi’ite sect, broke out at dawn after a hand grenade was thrown toward a Sunni area, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Tension has been high along Lebanon’s religious and political fault lines since the militant Shi’ite group Hezbollah overran parts of Beirut in May in response to government attempts to limit its power.

The deal that ended that crisis saw Hezbollah and other opposition politicians re-enter the government of the Western-backed prime minister, Fuad Siniora, with veto power over some decisions.

Friday’s clashes occurred as the government was struggling to draft a document outlining plans for its term in office amid disagreements with Hezbollah.

The fighting escalated as automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades were used between the Sunni Bab el-Tabaneh district and the predominantly Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighborhood, police said.

A cease-fire went into effect at 1 p.m. after mediation by the grand mufti of north Lebanon, Sheik Malek al-Shaar, who has acted as a mediator throughout the recent weeks of fighting.

But after a brief lull fighting broke out again, said residents of the city, located 50 miles north of Beirut. Police said three more people died in the afternoon fighting, including a policeman and two women. A 10-year-old boy struck by a stray bullet also died later Friday, bringing the total to six people killed.

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