Soldiers and protesters injured in riots over Lebanon economic crisis

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Lebanese troops deployed in the northern city of Tripoli early on Sunday, taking positions around major state institutions after a night of protests and riots against worsening living conditions left several protesters and 10 soldiers injured.

Sporadic protests were reported throughout Lebanon on Saturday as the country’s 20-month economic crisis worsened.

The World Bank described the crisis as one of the worst the world has witnessed in 150 years. It is coupled with a political deadlock that has left Lebanon without a government since August.

The biggest protests were in the southern port of Sidon and in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and the most impoverished.

There were sporadic protests and road closures in the capital, Beirut.

Lebanese soldiers stand guard as protesters block a main highway in the town of Jal el-Dib, north of Beirut (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Lebanon’s currency hit a record low on Saturday, reaching 18,000 pounds to the US dollar. The pound has lost more than 90% of its value since the crisis began.

In October 2019, protesters called for the removal of the political class that has run the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war and has been blamed for corruption and mismanagement which has ruined the country’s economy.

The army said rioters on motorcycles threw stun grenades at troops in Tripoli, injuring nine soldiers, while another was injured when 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.

Drivers queue for petrol in Beirut (Hussein Malla/AP)

Talks with the International Monetary Fund over the economic crisis have been suspended since last year.

The World Bank said Lebanon’s gross domestic product is projected to contract 9.5% in 2021, after shrinking by 20.3% in 2020 and 6.7% the year before.

Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs since late 2019 in the tiny country of six million, including a million Syrian refugees. More than half the population lives in poverty.

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