AFP – A firefight between pro- and anti-Damascus factions in Beirut killed one gunman and wounded 13 Sunday, a security official said, in the latest spillover of the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The gun battle raged from 3am to 8.30am (0100 to 0630 GMT) in a poor Sunni Muslim district in the south of the Lebanese capital, the security official told AFP.
A heavy deployment by the army brought a halt to the fighting, an AFP journalist reported.
The battle pitted members of a small pro-Damascus Sunni group – the Arab Movement Party (AMP) – against gunmen opposed – like most Lebanese Sunnis – to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
A pro-Damascus activist said the dead man was an AMP member.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said the Assad supporters came under attack by hardline Sunni Islamists.
Witnesses said that the opposing gunmen were members of small Lebanese and Palestinian factions hostile to Shi’a militant group Hezbollah, whose militants have intervened in Syria alongside Assad’s forces.
The AMP was at the centre of the fighting when the first Syria-linked violence erupted in the Lebanese capital in May 2012.
It supporters were forced out of the capital’s Tariq Jedideh district in fighting with gunmen sympathetic to the Future Movement of anti-Damascus former prime minister Saad Hariri.
Hezbollah strongholds in south Beirut have since seen repeated deadly bomb attacks blamed on hardline Sunni militants.
The latest Beirut fighting came after nine days of clashes between pro- and anti-Assad groups rocked Lebanon’s second city Tripoli, killing 24 people and wounding 128.
The northern city has been the scene of chronic sectarian fighting since the war in Syria erupted three years ago, with gunmen from the Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh battling fighters from neighbouring Jabal Mohsen, whose residents belong to Assad’s Alawite sect.
AMP leader Shaker Barjawi is a veteran militant whose career has spanned multiple decades and causes.
He fought in the Lebanese civil war under the banner of the Palestine Liberation Organisation before heading to Iraq to fight alongside now executed dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces in his 1980-88 war with neighbouring Iran.
At the time the Iraqi and Syrian regimes were bitter rivals, and on his return home, Barjawi was a staunch opponent of the troop presence in Lebanon which Syria maintained from 1976 to 2005, earning him a spell in prison in Damascus.
But he later changed sides and became a staunch ally of the Assad regime.