At least four dead in Lebanon riots
At least four Lebanese opposition supporters were shot dead in Beirut on Sunday during protests against power cuts, Reuters reported. Protests spread after the killing of an official from the pro-Syrian Amal movement. The army had fired into the air to disperse the initial demonstration.
The protesters used blazing tyres to block several main roads, including the highway to Beirut airport.
Three more people, two of them close to Hizbullah, were shot dead in ensuing violence, security sources said. At least 13 other people were injured in the violence.
The dead Amal official was identified as Ahmad Hamza, Amal's representative in the Hay Moawwad quarter of Shiyah, where protests first broke out around 4 pm. "Hamza has passed away after being shot in the back," an Amal source conveyed to AFP. "Amal will not be dragged into any provocation," he said.
The Amal official told AFP that Hamza was not among the protesters. "Hamza was not a demonstrator. He cooperated with the army on a regular basis whenever there were such similar protests in the region," he said. "The protests were initially spontaneous."
Following the news, Amal, led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, urged its supporters to halt the protests. "We have no link to this action. We call on people not to react. We call on them to pull out of the streets," senior Amal official Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters. Hizbullah used loudspeakers to urge calm.
Sunday's protest commenced in the Mar Makhaeil area of southern Beirut. Security sources said at least one soldier was hurt when the protesters threw stones at security forces who had tried to break up the initial protest, which started as a demonstration against power cuts. A security official and witnesses told AFP that gunmen opened fire on Lebanese troops in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
As night fell, riots spread to reach the airport highway, where demonstrators cut the main road with burning tires. Soon afterwards protestors cut the coastal highway between Sidon and Tyre with blazing tires. The road to Baalbek in east Lebanon's Bekaa valley was also briefly closed.