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Hundreds clash with troops in Lebanese city as economic crisis deepens

Hundreds of protesters in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli have set fire to two banks and hurled stones at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and batons in renewed clashes triggered by an economic crisis spiralling out of control amid a weeks-long virus lockdown.The clashes started in the afternoon, hours after a tense funeral was …

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Lebanese army soldiers run in front of a Credit Libanais Bank that was set on fire by anti-government protesters, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Hundreds of angry Lebanese took part Tuesday in the funeral of a young man killed in riots overnight in the northern city of Tripoli that were triggered by the crash of Lebanon’s national currency that sent food prices soaring. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanese army soldiers run in front of a Credit Libanais Bank that was set on fire by anti-government protesters, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Hundreds of angry Lebanese took part Tuesday in the funeral of a young man killed in riots overnight in the northern city of Tripoli that were triggered by the crash of Lebanon’s national currency that sent food prices soaring. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanese army soldiers run in front of a Credit Libanais Bank that was set on fire by anti-government protesters, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Hundreds of angry Lebanese took part Tuesday in the funeral of a young man killed in riots overnight in the northern city of Tripoli that were triggered by the crash of Lebanon’s national currency that sent food prices soaring. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Hundreds of protesters in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli have set fire to two banks and hurled stones at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and batons in renewed clashes triggered by an economic crisis spiralling out of control amid a weeks-long virus lockdown.

The clashes started in the afternoon, hours after a tense funeral was held for a 27-year-old man killed during riots overnight in Lebanon’s second largest city.

Fawwaz Samman was shot by soldiers during confrontations that began on Monday night and died in hospital hours later.

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Anti-government demonstrators burn tyres in Tripoli (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Anti-government demonstrators burn tyres in Tripoli (Bilal Hussein/AP)

AP/PA Images

Anti-government demonstrators burn tyres in Tripoli (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Tripoli is one of the poorest cities in Lebanon.

The violence is a reflection of rising poverty amid a crippling economic and financial crisis that has worsened since October, when nationwide protests broke out.

A lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus has further aggravated the crisis, throwing tens of thousands more people out of work.

The national currency has lost more than 50% of its value, and banks have imposed crippling capital controls amid a liquidity crunch.

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Scattered anti-government protests broke out in several parts of Lebanon (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Scattered anti-government protests broke out in several parts of Lebanon (Bilal Hussein/AP)

AP/PA Images

Scattered anti-government protests broke out in several parts of Lebanon (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Riots intensified later in the afternoon with protesters setting two police vehicles ablaze as the army brought in reinforcements to try to bring the situation under control. Soldiers chased protesters through the streets after they threw stones at troops, and also fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Earlier in the day, hundreds marched in the funeral procession for Mr Samman, and gunmen fired in the air in a display of anger and mourning.

The man’s body was brought from his parents’ home and placed briefly in front of his motorcycle repair shop before he was laid to rest in a Tripoli cemetery.

Apparently to avoid more tension, his body was not taken to Nour Square, as previously planned. Most of the violence had taken place in the square.

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Anti-government protesters scuffle with soldiers in Zouk Mosbeh (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Anti-government protesters scuffle with soldiers in Zouk Mosbeh (Bilal Hussein/AP)

AP/PA Images

Anti-government protesters scuffle with soldiers in Zouk Mosbeh (Bilal Hussein/AP)

“The army command expresses its deep regret for the fall of a martyr,” the military said, adding that an investigation has been opened into his death.

Small protests also erupted elsewhere in Lebanon, leaving scores injured and more than a dozen people detained, according to the Lebanese military.

Last week, scattered anti-government protests resumed as authorities began easing a weeks-long lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus in Lebanon, which has reported 710 cases and 24 deaths so far.

In a statement about the overnight riots, the Lebanese army said “troublemakers who had infiltrated the protesters to attack banks” also threw firebombs and grenades at soldiers, setting a military vehicle on fire. It said 54 troops were injured across the country and that the army detained 13 people.

PA