DUBAI: The death toll continued to mount in Beirut as armed clashes worsened on the streets of the Lebanese capital, with scores injured.
Multiple casualties were reported with six dead according to local reports. But there were conflicting reports on the number of injured with local media reporting 60 but the minister of interior Bassam Mawlawi saying 16.
But the Lebanese Red Cross reported in a tweet that five people had been killed.
Violence erupted Thursday in the vicinity of a protest against Beirut port blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar. Reports suggest the initial shooting took place in the Tayouneh neighborhood of Beirut.
The Lebanese army had said earlier that they would shoot anyone seen carrying a gun.
units #Army The deployed will shoot at any armed man on the roads and at anyone who shoots from anywhere else and asks civilians to evacuate the streets.#Lebanese army #LebaneseArmy pic.twitter.com/ctJOIDChlq
— Lebanese Army (@LebarmyOfficial) October 14, 2021
“While protesters were going to the Justice Palace they were fired at in the Tayounah area,” an army statement said.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm and the arrest of “those responsible for the violations that led to injuries.”
The demonstration, called for by the Shiite duo of Hezbollah and Amal Movement, was scheduled to take place in front of the Justice Palace in the capital of Beirut.
Al Jadeed TV reported a sniper on a rooftop taking aim at protestors in the Tayounah area of Beirut where the unidentified man was killed – but no further details were given. Media reports showed multiple shootings taking place across different Beirut neighborhoods.
Most of the violence is concentrated in Tayounah, located 3 km away from Martyr’s square in downtown Beirut, which served as the space for mass protests in 2019.
A heavy military presence was reported in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. At least two explosions were heard, according to Reuters, after violence erupted. Eyewitnesses told Arab News they believed the explosions were RPGs.
Hezbollah and Amal called for the protest in an attempt to silence Judge Tarek Bitar who issued an arrest warrant against former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of Amal.
The duo accuses Bitar of bias and singling out politicians for questioning, most of them allied with Hezbollah. Speaking Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah accused Bitar of using “the blood of victims to serve political interests” while demanding that the investigation be headed by a “transparent judge.”
On Aug. 4, 2020, some 2750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate blew up in the port of Beirut after being inadequately stored there since 2013, killing more than 200 people and wounding thousands.
(This is a developing story)
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