A senior member of an Alawite party in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli has been charged with being part of an "armed terrorist group," a judicial source said.

Rifaat Eid, the political leader of the Arab Democratic Party, on Saturday was accused with 11 others of "belonging to an armed terrorist group with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts," the source told AFP.

The accused are also suspected of possessing weapons illegally, and "inciting sectarianism".

The charges were filed after the army deployed in Tripoli in an operation to quell violence between the Alawite neighbourhood of Jabal Mohsen, where Eid's party holds sway, and the nearby Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh.

Historically the two neighbourhoods have been at loggerheads since the days of Lebanon's civil war from 1975-1990, but the violence has been exacerbated by the war in neighbouring Syria, where the Alawite president, Bashar al-Assad, faces a Sunni-dominated uprising.

Mosque attacks

Successive rounds of violence between the neighbourhoods have killed dozens of people and brought parts of the coastal city to a standstill.

The last round of fighting, which lasted two weeks and left 30 people dead, ended with the army's deployment in the two neighbourhoods on April 1.

Rifaat's father, Ali Eid, is wanted for questioning over an August twin car bomb attack against two Sunni mosques in Tripoli that killed 45 people.

Lebanese media has reported that Rifaat Eid is in Syria, and Lebanese witnesses in Damascus told AFP on Saturday they had seen the Alawite leader the previous night at a hotel in the Syrian capital.

Source: AFP