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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Clashes in Beirut kill at least two

At least two students were shot dead and 35 others were wounded in Beirut street fighting on Thursday between students loyal to the government and opposition supporters, a security source said.

Opposition-run television station NBN put the death tally from the fighting, that spilled over from the Arab University campus, at four, including two students. But the security source could not confirm this.

Rioters armed with sticks torched cars and tires and thick smoke billowed from the area.

Television stations run by both camps blamed each other for the violence. Leaders of both sides called for calm.

Witnesses reported shots fired at the students from rooftops in the mainly Sunni Muslim areas and attacks by a Shi'ite mob on a Sunni-run school in another area of the capital.

Al-Manar television, run by the opposition's Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah movement, blamed the shooting on pro-government gunmen loyal to Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri.

At least 35 people were injured, some by gunfire, in the clashes that included running battles with sticks and stones in the university and in nearby streets.

Lebanese soldiers fired into the air to try to disperse the crowds, to no avail. Soldiers evacuated students from the area in army trucks.

Hezbollah issued a statement urging its supporters to pull out of the streets around the university while Hariri urged supporters to show self-restraint and calm.

The opposition launched nationwide protests on Tuesday which shut down much of Lebanon and sparked violence in which three people were killed and 176 wounded.

The opposition want veto power in government and early parliamentary elections to topple the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Siniora and his main backer, parliamentary majority leader Hariri, have refused to give in to the demands.


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