Officials said at least three people died in overnight Alawite-Sunni clashes in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli early today, reported Reuters.
The conservative Sunni city, which lies about 40 miles north of Beirut, is also home to a small community of Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Tensions between the two sects have been escalating in tandem with Syria's largely Sunni-led anti-government uprising against its Alawite leader, President Bashar al-Assad, according to Reuters.
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Officials told Reuters that protesters were using rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles in violence the LA Times said took place between the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen and the city's Sunni Bab Al Tibbaneh neighborhood.
"Overnight, I heard RPG [rocket-propelled grenades] and rockets," Syrian activist and Tripoli resident Nader Hosni told the LA Times.
The violence was reportedly related to a sit-in protest over the arrest of Shadi al-Moulawi, charged with terrorism but which protesters say was arrested for helping Syrian refugees, said Reuters.
Lebanon, a strong Syria ally, has not wavered in its support of Assad during the 14-month uprising against his rule, according to Reuters. The political unrest led to a brutal government crackdown that has left at least 9,000 people dead.
Similar sectarian violence in Tripoli killed two people in February, said the LA Times.
Syria had troops stationed in Lebanon for nearly 30 years, until 2005, but the two countries remain close thanks to the influence of Lebanon's Assad-allied, armed Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah, said Reuters.