Hundreds-of-thousands gather to mourn Gemayel in Beirut
Hundreds of thousands gathered in Lebanon's Martyrs' Square on Thursday to pay respects to Lebanese minster Pierre Gemayel, who was gunned down on Tuesday in Beirut.
Chatered buses arrived from all parts of Lebanon carrying mourners to Beirut to pay tribute to Gemayel, a Christian minister who had been known for his outspoken opposition to Syrian influence in Lebanon.
Gemayel, 34, a Maronite Catholic, served as industry minister in Lebanon's cabinet, according to Naharnet. His killing represents the sixth assassination of an anti-Syrian public figure in Lebanon over the last two years.
Sunni, Druze and Christian leaders alike have accused Damascus of killing Gemayel, while the funeral march turned into an anti-Syria show of strength.
Crowds, waving the flags of Lebanon and of Gemayel's Phalange Party packed Martyrs' Square before the funeral in the St George Maronite Cathedral. Many of them brandished anti-Syrian posters among many Lebanese flags.
One poster read "Get Bashar's agent out of Baabda," a reference to President Emile Lahoud. Another placard read: "Caesar of Baabda, Get Lost!" Baabda is the presidential headquarters. Army command sources told the Al-Akhbar daily that the military "remains neutral" to the political disputes in Lebanon and will continue to protect all state institutions, including the presidential palace.
Others stomped on portraits of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the principal backers of Hizbullah, while chanting "Nasrallah, come and see who is the majority".
Thousands of soldiers and police were deployed in Beirut to contain the crowds. Shops, schools, banks and government offices were closed to let people join the mourning, which will officially last three days.