Snipers kill 3 as sectarian clashes flare in Lebanon’s Tripoli

Updated 07 December 2012
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Snipers kill 3 as sectarian clashes flare in Lebanon’s Tripoli

BEIRUT: Three men were killed by sniper fire in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli yesterday during sectarian clashes between gunmen loyal to opposing sides in neighboring Syria’s civil war, residents said.
Eight people have now been killed and 73 wounded in fighting in the city that started on Tuesday, the latest bout of violence that has roots in Lebanon’s own 15-year civil war but which has intensified as Syria’s conflict has polarised Lebanese society.
Tensions have been high since at least 14 Sunni Muslim Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen from north Lebanon were killed in a Syrian town close to the border a week ago by Syrian government forces.
They appeared to have joined mainly Sunni insurgents waging a 20-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose Alawite faith is derived from Shiite Islam.
Syrian state television has shown graphic footage of the dead Lebanese men, riddled with gunshot wounds.
Tripoli is a majority Sunni city and mostly supports the uprising in Syria, but it also has an Alawite minority and street fights between Sunni and Alawite gunmen have erupted several times since the revolt began.
The clashes on Thursday took place between gunmen from Tripoli’s Sunni neighborhood of Bab Al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite area of Jabal Mohsen. Two of those killed were from Jabal Mohsen and the third from Bab Al-Tabbaneh, but it was unclear if they were involved in the fighting or civilians.
Residents in Tripoli said they had heard heavy gunfire overnight as soldiers tried to stop clashes. The army said two of its soldiers had been wounded and that it had arrested five men on suspicion of opening fire.
Lebanon’s population is deeply divided over Syria’s crisis, with Shiite political and guerrilla movement Hezbollah and its allies supporting Assad and the country’s Sunni-led March 14 opposition bloc backing the revolt.
Politicians in the small Mediterranean state have agreed to distance themselves from the turmoil in its neighbor, but Syria’s deputy foreign minister said yesterday more should be done to prevent Lebanese fighters joining rebels in his country.
“We turn to the Lebanese government and we say, enough. When the situation is linked to the killing of Syrians, it is no longer possible to maintain the position of neutrality,” Faisal Maqdad said in an interview with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV. He did not elaborate on what measures should be taken.
Assad’s opponents blame Syria — whose troops were garrisoned in Lebanon until 2005 — for the unresolved October killing of Wissam Al-Hassan, a Lebanese security official who was leading an investigation that implicated Damascus and Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour asked the Syrian ambassador to hand over the bodies of the gunmen killed in the Syrian town a week ago, after their families protested in Tripoli and demanded the Lebanese government return the dead and determine the whereabouts of the missing.
The bodies will be returned on Saturday, an event which could inflame tensions along Tripoli’s Syria Street, the main thoroughfare dividing Bab Al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.


Egypt detains activist blogger amid new wave of arrests

Updated 50 min 8 sec ago
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Egypt detains activist blogger amid new wave of arrests

  • Wael Abbas has campaigned against torture in Egypt for well over a decade, before and after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
  • Earlier this month, Egyptian police arrested two prominent activists, Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Haytham Mohamedeen, on an array of charges including belonging to an outlawed group and insulting the president.

CAIRO: An Egyptian activist and blogger known for documenting police abuse was detained on Wednesday, security officials said, the latest in a new wave of arrests following elections earlier this year.
Wael Abbas was taken from his home in a Cairo suburb on accusations that include disseminating false news and joining an outlawed group, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights said police raided Abbas’ home at dawn, seizing his computer and mobile phones. It says he was blindfolded before being taken to an unknown location.
Abbas has campaigned against torture in Egypt for well over a decade, before and after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. He has published graphic videos showing torture and police abuse on his blog, misrdigital.com, and has been detained on a number of occasions.
His YouTube account was shut down in 2007, resulting in the removal of hundreds of videos showing protests and abuses by security forces. In December, he wrote on Facebook that Twitter had suspended his account without providing an explanation.
Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned Abbas’ detention on Twitter, saying his arrest is part of a crackdown by Egyptian authorities on freedom of expression.
Authorities have arrested a number of secular activists since President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was re-elected to a second four-year term in March. He faced no serious challengers, after several potentially strong candidates were arrested or intimidated into withdrawing from the race.
Earlier this month, Egyptian police arrested two prominent activists, Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Haytham Mohamedeen, on an array of charges including belonging to an outlawed group and insulting the president. Shady Abu Zaid, a young comedian, was arrested on accusations that include spreading false news.
The latest arrests come amid a wider crackdown on dissent. Thousands of people have been jailed, unauthorized protests have been banned and hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and rights activists, have been blocked.
The government has said such measures are needed to restore stability and combat an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula that has gained strength since 2013 and is now led by the Daesh group.
On Tuesday, a military court sentenced a freelance journalist who reported on the Sinai insurgency to 10 years in prison on terror-related charges. Ismail Alexandrani was convicted of spreading false news and joining an outlawed group.
International rights groups condemned the sentence and urged his release.
“Hauling a journalist before a military court not only violates his rights as a civilian but sends a chilling message to the media that independent coverage of political dissent and security threats will not be tolerated by Egypt’s rulers,” said Robert Mahoney, of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Sarah Leah Whitson, of Human Rights Watch, said the verdict “exemplifies the government’s vicious retaliation against journalists who report on sensitive issues.”