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Gunmen assassinate Sunni sheik in Lebanese city

BEIRUT (AP) — Masked gunmen riding a motorcycle assassinated a Sunni sheik on Tuesday in a volatile northern Lebanese city plagued by sectarian clashes linked to the war in neighboring Syria, media reports said.

The two attackers opened fire at Sheik Saad El-Deen Ghieh's car as he was driving by in Tripoli, 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of Beirut, reported the official National News Agency. Ghieh was taken to hospital and died shortly afterward.

Soldiers were deployed to the area to prevent fighting following the attack. Tripoli has long been the scene of sectarian clashes related to the Syrian civil war, with two impoverished neighborhoods bitterly split between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

The Bab Tabbaneh district is largely Sunni Muslim, as are Syria's rebels who have led the armed uprising against Assad's rule. The Jabal Mohsen neighborhood is dominated by residents of Assad's Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot.

Street battles have killed scores of Tripoli residents, and two car bombs outside Sunni mosques in August killed at least 50 people. Several Tripoli residents, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be perceived as involved in the sectarian tensions, said the assassinated sheik belonged to a Sunni organization that has good relations with Lebanon's powerful Shiite Hezbollah militant group.

Another member of the group, the Islamic Work Front, was taken into custody in August following the Tripoli mosque bombing, suspected of involvement in the act.

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