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Riots in impoverished north Lebanon city amid currency crash

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Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces in northern Lebanon Monday amid a crash in the local currency and a surge in food prices. Dozens of young men smashed the fronts of local banks and set fire to an army vehicle, as the protests turned into riots.

The Red Cross said its teams were working on evacuating wounded people in Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city and one of the most neglected regions in Lebanon.

Scattered anti-government protests resumed last week as the government began easing the weeks-long lockdown to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in Lebanon, which has reported 710 cases and 24 deaths so far. The number of registered cases has dropped over the past two weeks, leading to the shortening of the nighttime curfew by one hour and allowing some businesses to resume work on Monday.

The virus outbreak has exacerbated a severe economic and financial crisis gripping the country since late last year, the most serious to hit Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war.

The Lebanese national currency hit a new record low over the weekend, with 4,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market while the official price remained at 1,507 pounds.

Tripoli is the capital of northern Lebanon, where unemployment is among the highest in the country and poverty is widespread.
Earlier Monday, scattered anti-government protests broke out in several parts of the country, leading to road closures that prevented medical teams from setting out from Beirut to conduct coronavirus tests across the country.

The Health Ministry said its teams would try again on Tuesday, urging protesters to let the paramedics work to evaluate the spread of the virus in the tiny country of 5 million people.


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