Riots in Lebanon over economy injure 10 soldiers, protesters

BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese troops deployed in the northern city of Tripoli took up positions around key state institutions on Sunday morning after a night of protests and riots against deteriorating living conditions , leaving several demonstrators and 10 soldiers injured.

Sporadic protests were reported across Lebanon on Saturday as the country’s 20-month economic crisis deepened. The World Bank has described the crisis as one of the worst the world has seen in 150 years. It is accompanied by a political impasse which has left Lebanon without a government since August.

The biggest protests took place in the southern port city of Sidon and Tripoli, Lebanon’s second and most impoverished city. Sporadic protests and road closures have taken place in the capital Beirut.

Lebanon suffers from severe shortages of vital commodities, including fuel, medicine and medical supplies, angering the public.

The Lebanese currency hit a record high on Saturday, hitting 18,000 pounds to the US dollar. The pound has lost more than 90% of its value since the start of the crisis.

In October 2019, protesters called for the withdrawal of the political class that has ruled the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war and was accused of corruption and mismanagement that ruined the country’s economy.

The military said rioters on motorcycles threw stun grenades at troops in Tripoli, injuring nine soldiers, while another was injured when he was hit by a stone. Protesters attacked several state institutions in the city.

The state-run national news agency said Tripoli and other cities in Lebanon were quiet around noon on Sunday.

The situation in Lebanon is not expected to improve as political feuds between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri have delayed the formation of a government since Hariri was appointed to the post in October. Discussions with the International Monetary Fund on the economic crisis have been suspended since last year.

The World Bank said Lebanon’s gross domestic product is expected to contract 9.5 percent in 2021, after declining 20.3 percent in 2020 and 6.7 percent the year before.

Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs since the end of 2019 in the small country of 6 million inhabitants, including one million Syrian refugees. More than half of the population lives in poverty.

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