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Anti-govt. protest over economic woes turns violent in Lebanon’s Tripoli

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of the Lebanese army and security quell burning tires set aflame by anti-government protesters in the Dbayeh area, north of Beirut, on April 27, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

A young Lebanese protester has been shot and killed as violent clashes broke out with security forces during another demonstration in the northern city of Tripoli over the country’s economic woes.

Hundreds of demonstrators defied a coronavirus lockdown late on Monday and took to the streets of Tripoli, triggering skirmishes with army forces.

The rally took a violent turn as soldiers tried to prevent the protesters from approaching the house of a parliamentarian, an AFP correspondent said.

Dozens of protesters targeted public and private property including banks, and attacked an army patrol in the capital of the North Governorate.

 The banking association said banks had been targeted in “serious attacks and rioting” and declared all banks in Tripoli to close down from Tuesday until security is restored.

A security source was cited by Reuters as saying that soldiers fired into the air and used tear gas and rubber bullets during the mayhem.

One person reportedly lost his life. The victim was in his 20s, the source added.

The Lebanese army said in a statement overnight that its soldiers had come under attack during the chaos. Two soldiers were slightly injured when a fire-bomb was hurled at an army vehicle and a hand grenade was thrown at a patrol, it added.

The army blamed the trouble on “a number of infiltrators,” warning the peaceful protesters to go home.

Lebanon is dealing with a dire economic situation in decades. The local currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost more than 50 percent of its value leading to inflation.

The economic hardship has infuriated the public and spurred unrest across the country, leading to protests and frequent attacks on banks.

The demonstrations — which first erupted last October — also prompted a change of administration in the country.

Tripoli is Lebanon’s second largest city and one of the regions severely affected by a high unemployment rate and extreme poverty.

The coronavirus lockdown has worsened the economic hardships in Tripoli and other cities.

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