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Shias Crush Sunnis, Win West Beirut

Associated Press

Shia Muslim militiamen crushed an outgunned and outmanned Sunni Muslim faction today after a bitter 15-hour battle in the streets of West Beirut.

Police reported 40 people were killed and 190 wounded in the power struggle between the two Muslim militias and in a 16th day of fighting at Palestinian refugee camps.

It was the heaviest fighting in West Beirut in weeks. Tank cannon and mortar fire set buildings ablaze and wounded civilians huddled in doorways as gunmen raked streets with fire from automatic weapons and recoilless rifles.

Many Casualties

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Police said 25 people were killed and 119 wounded in the Shia-Sunni confrontation. Fifteen more people were killed and 71 injured in clashes between Amal militia and Palestinian guerrillas around the camps.

Justice Minister Nabih Berri, who heads the Amal militia, claimed victory for his fighters in the battle against a Sunni faction headed by Shaker Berjawi and called the Feb. 6 Movement.

The fighting today appeared to be an attempt by Amal to assert its superiority in West Beirut. But in what seemed to be conciliatory gestures, Berri ordered his militiamen to abstain from looting and offered to turn over all neighborhoods conquered by his militiamen to the Lebanese army.

Sunni political and religious leaders have been critical of the militias that have turned West Beirut into a haven for kidnapers, assassins and bank robbers.

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