Clashes Wound 6 in Lebanese Capital

Posted October 22nd, 2012 at 5:20 am (UTC-5)
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Lebanese security officials say at least six people have been wounded in clashes in southern Beirut, amid rising tensions following the assassination of a top security official.

Soldiers and tanks were deployed between Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods in the capital's Kaskas district Monday, trying to bring calm to the area.

Separate fighting in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli killed at least one person and wounded 10 others.

Meanwhile, a group of protesters has set up tents outside Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati's office, vowing to remain there until he resigns.

The sit-in began late Sunday outside the building in central Beirut. Earlier Sunday, Lebanese security forces fired their weapons into the air and used tear gas to disperse protesters who were trying to storm the building.

The demonstrators are demanding Mr. Mikati quit over the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, a top intelligence official who died along with seven others in a car bombing Friday that many blame on the government in neighboring Syria.

Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri and opposition leader Walid Jumblatt have both accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being behind the blast. Prime Minister Mikati's government is supported by Lebanon's pro-Syrian Hezbollah militia.

Hassan had led an investigation into a recent bomb plot that resulted in the arrest of a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician. He also led a probe that implicated Syria and Hezbollah in the truck bomb killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Thousands of Lebanese gathered in Beirut's Martyrs' Square for Hassan's funeral Sunday, shortly before the protests erupted. Soldiers had set up road blocks and cordoned off the area into which Hassan's coffin, draped in a Lebanese flag, was brought for burial.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also pointed to a Damascus connection, telling French television, “We don't yet know exactly who is behind this but everything indicates that this is an extension of the Syrian tragedy.”

“I think this is a part of what is happening in Syria and shows again how the departure of Bashar al-Assad is urgent,'' Fabius added.

After an emergency Cabinet session on Saturday, Prime Minister Mikati said he had offered to resign in the wake of the deadly bombing, but Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman had asked him to stay.

Lebanon has seen a recent increase in violence related to the Syrian civil war that has spilled over the border.