Four Killed, Including Syrian, in Tripoli Gunfights
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Syrian-backed Moslem militias trying to oust President Amin Gemayel battled Christian troops in the central mountains Monday, and at least 14 deaths were reported in 24 hours of fighting around the country.
In the port of Tripoli, 50 miles north of Beirut, gunmen killed a Syrian soldier after 50,000 Sunni Moslems attended a funeral for Khalil Akkawi, the Sunni fundamentalist leader who was assassinated in an ambush the day before.
Three supporters of Akkawi’s Islamic Tawheed, or Islamic Unification Movement, were slain in gunfights with Syrian troopers after his burial, police reported.
Tension was reported high in the city, Lebanon’s second largest, where Syrian-backed forces crushed the Islamic Tawheed in bloody fighting last fall.
Police in Beirut said at least one civilian, a woman, was killed by snipers using silencer-equipped rifles during fighting Monday along the Green Line, which divides the capital into Christian and Moslem sectors.
Earlier, three fighters in Beirut died and 18 combatants and civilians were wounded in night-long clashes, police said. The shooting tapered off at daybreak, but snipers fought throughout the day, some of them using silencer- equipped rifles.
The fighting in the central mountains east of Beirut centered on the strategic Dawwar-Ayroun crossroads above Gemayel’s hometown of Bikfaya, 10 miles northeast of the capital.
The army’s mainly Christian 5th Brigade, loyal to Gemayel despite an appeal by Moslem generals for Christian units to stay out of the fighting, battled with tanks, artillery and 106mm guns.
There was no immediate report of casualties among the soldiers or the Syrian-backed militias facing them in the snow-blanketed mountains.
However, police said six people were killed and seven wounded in night-long clashes in the mountains, where the two sides have skirmished daily since Jan. 15.
That was when Gemayel, a Maronite Catholic, crushed his main Christian rival, militia leader Elie Hobeika, in a showdown that killed more than 350 people.
Gemayel’s action sank a Syrian-sponsored peace accord Hobeika signed on Dec. 28 with Gemayel’s main foes, Druse chieftain Walid Jumblatt and Shiite Moslem leader Nabih Berri.
The Syrians, the main power broker in Lebanon, were incensed and gave their allies the green light to launch a campaign to topple Gemayel.
Gemayel opposed the peace pact because it would end Christian domination of government, Parliament, the judiciary and the army, which has been traditional since independence from France in 1943.
Jumblatt and Berri have said they will take military action to force the 44-year-old Gemeyal out of office.
A delegation of Sunni Moslem leaders, headed by Grand Mufti Sheik Hassan Khaled, flew to Damascus, Syria, on Monday and held talks with President Hafez Assad on the Lebanese crisis. But no details of the talks were disclosed.
Trouble also brewed between the powerful Shiite Amal movement and the Communist Party after a kidnapped communist leader was found slain and gunmen tried to kill Amal chieftain Mamhmoud al-Fariq in south Lebanon.
Amal and communist gunmen clashed in the Shiite-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut early Monday, heightening fears of new factional bloodletting.