TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Three people were killed as a result of armed clashes over the weekend in Tripoli, north Lebanon, before the army succeeded in restoring order.
The fighting began late Saturday night following a day that saw the controversial arrest of a young man accused by General Security of maintaining ties to a "terrorist group" but defended by his supporters as a provider of charitable aid to Syrian refugees.
At approximately 2 a.m., clashes broke out between armed men in Bab al-Tabbaneh, a neighborhood known for its residents' support of the uprising against the Syrian government, and Jabal Mohsen, most of whose residents back President Bashar Assad.
The heaviest fighting in the area occurred between 4 and 7 a.m. Mahmoud al-Duhaibi and Mahmoud Abu al-Nar, both civilians, and Faisal Abdallah al-Hussein, a soldier, were killed. Several civilians were wounded, including Hamadeh al-Hasan and Mahmoud Darwish. Two soldiers were also injured.
Earlier, Issa al-Ali was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade landed near him in Qubba, near Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Officials and authorities moved swiftly to contain the situation. In a statement, the army said that troops deployed in the area have adopted "stringent security measures, including increasing the number of patrols and checkpoints."
The army also pledged that it would "act decisively and with force against those tampering with the security and stability of the city, regardless of what side they belong to.”
President Michel Sleiman called Sunday for a meeting of the Higher Defense Council to discuss the escalating violence in Tripoli. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati contacted head of the Lebanese army Gen. Jean Kahwaji and the heads of the security services in order to stay abreast of developments.
The violence is believed to have been sparked by the Saturday arrest of Shadi Mawlawi.
Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi claimed Saturday that General Security lured Shadi Mawlawi to Safadi’s Center for Social Services in Abdel-Hamid Karami Square in Tripoli on the pretext that he would be granted health care. Upon his arrival, he was arrested.
General Security denied the allegation Saturday and said that Mawlawi, whom it accuses of being linked with a "terrorist group" was detained in a proper and lawful manner.
Mawlawi's supporters deny that he is affiliated with violent groups and maintain that his activities consist of aiding Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
In a bid to prevent the situation in Tripoli from spiraling out of control, a meeting was held at the home of Tripoli MP Mohammad Kabbara attended by several security officials and politicians, who called on the army to bolster its presence in the city.
Separately, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for calm and self-restraint on the part of Tripolitans, but also criticized the security services' recent behavior.
In a statement released by Hariri's press office, he said, "The closure of roads, random sit-ins and drawing weapons on the people of Tripoli is rejected, just as is rejected the way Shadi Mawlawi was arrested."
Sporadic gunfire continued to be heard at noon Sunday but peace had returned by the afternoon.