Lebanon: demonstration degenerates in Beirut, at least 6 dead

A Shia supporter shoots during the protest against Judge Tareq Bitar on October 14, 2021 in Beirut, Lebanon.

LEBANON – The Lebanese capital is plunging back into chaos. A demonstration organized by Hezbollah and its allies of the Amal movement against the judge investigating the explosion at the port of Beirut degenerated this Thursday, October 14, killing at least six and about thirty wounded and transforming neighborhoods in the city. Lebanese capital in a war zone.

The protest came just after the Court of Cassation dismissed complaints from former ministers against Judge Tareq Bitar, who wants to question senior officials and former ministers belonging to the Amal movement. This court decision allows him to resume his investigations.

Heavy gunfire and explosions echoed not far from the courthouse, in front of which had gathered hundreds of demonstrators dressed in black, while AFP correspondents saw men carrying small and medium weapons.

Ambulances, howling sirens, flocked to take care of the victims in the deserted streets, the inhabitants having taken refuge in their apartments and reliving scenes of war that they thought had been forgotten.

Army tanks were deployed in the neighborhood, sealing off access, and the troops warned that they would shoot point blank at anyone who opened fire.

In a joint statement, the two Shiite movements at the origin of the demonstration accused “snipers posted on the roofs of buildings” in the area of ​​having fired on the demonstrators. However, the sequence of events that led to the conflagration remains unclear.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi reported six deaths. Among the victims were a man who was shot in the head, a second shot in the chest and a 24-year-old woman was killed by a stray bullet while at home, according to medical sources.

The minister launched an appeal to “preserve civil peace”, stressing that “snipers” were at the origin of the shots since victims were hit in the head according to him. Prime Minister Nagib Mikati called for a return to calm and warned against attempts to drag Lebanon into a cycle of violence.

The investigation struggles to move forward

Judge Tareq Bitar, criticized by Hezbollah and the Amal movement, had issued an arrest warrant against deputy and former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of the Shiite movement Amal, an ally of Hezbollah. But he was immediately forced to suspend his investigation after complaints filed by Ali Hassan Khalil and another deputy and ex-minister of Amal, Ghazi Zaayter, whom he wished to question.

The case nearly imploded on Tuesday a stormy meeting of Nagib Mikati’s government, formed in September after a political deadlock of nearly a year, with ministers reporting to Hezbollah and Amal calling for the judge to be replaced. what opposed other members of the cabinet.

The explosion on August 4, 2020, caused by the careless storage of huge amounts of ammonium nitrate, killed at least 214 people, injured more than 6,500 and devastated several neighborhoods in the capital.

Blamed for criminal negligence, the authorities refuse any international investigation and are accused by the families of the victims and NGOs of torpedoing the local investigation, and the country is sinking into crisis.

See also on the HuffPost: Cancer patients in Beirut clamor for medication

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