TRIPOLI, Lebanon - The Lebanese government authorized the army on Monday to take control of the northern city of Tripoli for six months following three days of sectarian clashes, a decision meant to allay fears that fighting in Lebanon's second-largest city was spiraling out of control.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati made the announcement after a high-level security meeting at the presidential palace, saying the army has been empowered to take necessary security measures to keep the peace in Tripoli.
The army, he added, would carry out patrols and implement arrest warrants issued for fugitives in the city.
Security officials say 12 people have been killed and more than a hundred wounded in Tripoli since Saturday, when the latest round of violence erupted. Sectarian clashes linked to the war in neighboring Syria often flare there between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The fighting is concentrated between two impoverished rival neighborhoods in the port city. The Bab Tabbaneh district is largely Sunni Muslim, as are most of the Syrian rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Residents of Jabal Mohsen, a neighborhood perched on a hill, are mostly of Assad's Alawite sect.
But the fighting in the last few days has taken on a more ominous turn, spreading to include other parts of the city as snipers took up positions on rooftops and gun battles and rocket fire raged out of control.