U.S. backs Lebanon army after Tripoli clashes

A Lebanese army soldier holds his weapon after being deployed to tighten security, following clashes between Lebanese soldiers and Islamist gunmen in Tripoli, northern Lebanon October 27, 2014.

A Lebanese army soldier holds his weapon after being deployed to tighten security, following clashes between Lebanese soldiers and Islamist gunmen in Tripoli, northern Lebanon October 27, 2014.

The United States Monday praised the courage of Lebanese soldiers caught in clashes with Islamist militants in the northern city of Tripoli, in which 11 troops were killed.

Washington joined with Lebanon “as it mourns the loss of the soldiers and officers who died defending Lebanon from terrorist groups,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The U.S. also “commends the bravery of the personnel of the Lebanese armed forces who are working to keep Tripoli and Akkar safe for all residents.”

The fighting was the fiercest bout of Syria-related violence in the northern port city since the 2011 outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon’s neighbor, and has also left five civilians dead since Friday.

It was also the first to pit Islamists against the army in Tripoli.

Repeated clashes

Psaki said Washington stood by the country and its government, adding: “We condemn those who seek to sow chaos in Lebanon and are confident that the Lebanese people will persevere if they stand united in the face of this threat.”

Tripoli has seen repeated clashes between Sunni militants sympathetic to rebel fighters in neighboring Syria and Alawites loyal to the Damascus regime.

The Sunnis have recently focused their attacks on the army over its alleged support for the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Psaki also praised Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam for his “strong stand,” adding Washington was “very confident” in the army’s ability to defend the country.

 
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