2 explosions rock Lebanese city of Tripoli

2013-08-23 15:00
Lebanese citizens gather outside al-Taqwa mosque at the site of a powerful explosion in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. (STR, AFP)

Lebanese citizens gather outside al-Taqwa mosque at the site of a powerful explosion in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. (STR, AFP)

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Beirut - Twin explosions rocked the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday, causing deaths and injuries, Lebanese security officials said.

The blasts come amid rising tension in Lebanon resulting from Syria's civil war, which has sharply polarised the country along sectarian lines and between supporters and opponents of the regime of President Bashar Assad. Tripoli has previously seen clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, a Shi'ite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs.

Local media showed a column of thick, gray smoke rising over the city and said the explosion caused extensive destruction.

The officials said the blasts went off near mosques in the overwhelmingly Sunni city on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, when places of worship would be packed. They said there were casualties but did not give a number.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

One of the blasts exploded outside the Taqwa mosque, where Sheik Salem Rafei, a Salafi cleric opposed to Lebanon's militant Shi'ite Hezbollah group, usually prays. It was not clear whether he was inside.

The second went off about five minutes later in the Mina district of Tripoli, but no details were immediately available.

Attacks have become common in the past few months against Shi'ite strongholds in Lebanon, particularly following Hezbollah's open participation in Syria's civil war.

But attacks against Sunni strongholds have been rare.

Read more on:    hezbollah  |  bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict

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