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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rival Druze gunmen clash in Lebanon, one dead

BEIRUT, July 4 (Reuters) - One person was killed and five were wounded in a firefight between followers of rival Lebanese Druze leaders on Tuesday, security sources said.

They said the overnight clash began when supporters of pro-Syrian former minister Wiam Wahhab were plastering posters in the village of Jahiliyah, southeast of Beirut, sparking a dispute with followers of Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt, a fiery critic of Damascus.

Lebanese army units moved in and ended the clash, the sources said. Authorities were investigating the incident and seeking the arrest of participants, they said.

It was the second deadly firefight between supporters of Wahhab and Jumblatt this year, reflecting rising political tensions in Lebanon since Syria ended three decades of military presence in its smaller neighbour last year.

The Syrian pullout came after intense international and Lebanese pressure in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in Beirut in February 2005.

A continuing U.N. investigation has implicated Syrian officials and allied Lebanese security officials in the murder. Syria has denied any links to the killing.

Hariri's killing and the Syrian withdrawal plunged the country into the worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
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