Thursday, March 22, 2018
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Deadly fighting rages in Lebanon

Residents flee scene of violence as 15 soldiers are killedAt least 15 Lebanese soldiers are now known to have died in clashes between government troops and followers of a Sunni sheikh, who is opposed to the Shia movement Hezbollah and its involvement in the war in Syria.

On Sunday, Assir's supporters had surrounded an army checkpoint in Abra, on the outskirts of Sidon, where a vehicle transporting other supporters of the Sunni cleric had been stopped, a security source said.

The army were fired on, and they returned fire, the source added.

For hours afterwards, intense battles engulfed the district, closing down businesses and forcing residents to flee with their children.

The army called on the country's politicians to take a stand.

Last week, the Sunni sheikh called on supporters to fire on apartments in Abra that he claimed housed Hezbollah members.

Abra is home to a mosque where Assir leads main Friday prayers. The sheikh believes Hezbollah uses the Abra apartments to keep him under surveillance.

His supporters clashed with Hezbollah in Abra last week that left one man dead.

Assir rose to prominence about two years ago over his opposition to Hezbollah and its ally, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria-related tensions have soared in Lebanon, deepening sectarian rifts between Sunnis and Shias.

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