Gunbattles erupt in protest of Beirut blast probe; 6 die

8

Heavy gunfire broke out Thursday in Beirut during a protest organized by the Hezbollah group against the judge leading the probe into last year’s blast in the city’s port.

At least six people were killed and dozens wounded in the most violent street fighting in the Lebanese capital in years.

The exchanges of fire along a former front line from the 1975-90 civil war involved pistols, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and were reminiscent of that conflict.

Gunfire echoed for hours, and ambulances rushed to pick up casualties. Snipers shot from buildings. Bullets penetrated apartment windows in the area. Schools were evacuated and residents hid in shelters.

The chaos raised the specter of a return to sectarian violence in a country already embroiled in multiple crises, including one of the world’s worst economic crises of the past 150 years.

It was not clear who started the shooting, which began shortly after the start of the protest organized by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its Shiite allies from the Amal Movement against Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the investigation into last year’s massive port explosion.

Hezbollah and its allies accuse the judge of singling out politicians for questioning, most of them allied with Hezbollah.

Tensions over the port blast have contributed to Lebanon’s many troubles, including a currency collapse, hyperinflation, soaring poverty and an energy crisis leading to extended electricity blackouts. —Agencies

Previous articlePakistan sends seven more trucks of aid to Afghanistan
Next articleSHC asks Sindh govt to review its minimum wage decision