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Army says 'Lebanon on edge' as battles rage

By Loveday Morris Beirut

Lebanese security forces warned the fate of the nation was "on the edge" as it raided militia hideouts and clashed with Sunni gunmen, after the assassination of a spy chief set off a cycle of violence underpinned by simmering sectarian tensions.

The army said it would take "decisive measures" to maintain stability as gun battles in Beirut and militia checkpoints brought back memories of Lebanon's bloody civil war. The death toll climbed to seven as soldiers shot dead a gunman.

The killing of Wissam al-Hassan, a Sunni known for his investigations into Syria and Hezbollah, on Friday has highlighted disenfranchisement of the country's Sunni community.

The Internal Security Forces, where Hassan led the intelligence branch, was seen as one of the few institutions of state that remained out of the influence of Hezbollah and Damascus -- making his assassination all the more incendiary.

"The last few hours have proven without a doubt that the country is going through a decisive and critical time and the level of tension in some regions is rising to unprecedented levels," the military warned. (© Independent News Service)

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