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Gunmen assassinate Sunni sheikh

Masked gunmen riding a motorcycle assassinated a Sunni sheikh in a volatile northern Lebanese city plagued by sectarian clashes linked to the war in neighbouring Syria, media reports said.

The two attackers opened fire at Sheikh Saad El-Deen Ghieh's car as he was driving in Tripoli, 53 miles (85km) north of Beirut, according to the official National News Agency. Mr Ghieh was taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards.

Soldiers were deployed to the area to prevent fighting following the attack.

Tripoli has long been the scene of sectarian clashes related to the Syrian civil war, with two impoverished neighborhoods bitterly split between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

The Bab Tabbaneh district is largely Sunni Muslim, as are Syria's rebels who have led the armed uprising against Assad's rule. The Jabal Mohsen neighbourhood is dominated by residents of Assad's Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot.

Street battles have killed scores of Tripoli residents, and two car bombs outside Sunni mosques in August killed at least 50 people.

Several Tripoli residents said the assassinated sheikh belonged to a Sunni organisation that has good relations with Lebanon's powerful Shiite Hezbollah militant group.

Another member of the group, the Islamic Work Front, was taken into custody in August following the Tripoli mosque bombing, suspected of involvement in the act.


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