Lebanon launches major security operation
BEIRUT (AP) - Lebanese troops launched a major security operation on Monday to open all roads and force gunmen off the streets, trying to contain an outburst of violence set off by the assassination of a top intelligence official who was a powerful opponent of Syria. Sectarian clashes overnight killed at least two people.
Opponents of Syria have blamed the regime in Damascus for the killing of Lebanese Brigadier-General Wissam Al-Hassan in a Beirut car bomb on Friday. With Lebanon already tense and deeply divided over the civil war next door, the assassination has threatened to drag the country back into the kind of sectarian strife that plagued it for decades - much of it linked to Syria.
Sporadic cracks of gunfire rang out in Beirut as soldiers backed by armoured personal carriers with heavy machine guns took up position on major thoroughfares and dismantled roadblocks. At times, troops exchanged gunfire with Sunni gunmen.
Mr Al-Hassan was a Sunni who challenged Syria and its powerful Lebanese ally, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. The uprising in Syria is dominated by the Sunni majority fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, who like many who dominate his regime, is a member of the Alawite sect - an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Lebanon and Syria share similar sectarian divides that have fed tensions in both countries, increasingly.