The Lebanese capital city of Beirut is witnessing some of the worst turmoil in many years today, as the funeral for spy chief Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, slain in a car bomb attack on Friday, spawned massive sectarian protests and attacks on government compounds.
Hassan had close ties to the Sunni opposition leadership and was currently involved in the investigation of Information Minister Michel Samaha’s reported links to the Syrian government. His assassination has led to charges of a conspiracy, and a backlash against both the Syrian government and the ruling Hezbollah Party.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets, clashing with police and Lebanese soldiers who tried to keep them from storming government sites. So far the troops have kept the protesters from storming the palace.
A day of protests turned into a night of more serious violence, with reports of gunmen armed with rocket-propelled grenades clashing with troops in the capital’s southern districts and sporadic gunfire throughout the city into the night. Casualty figures have not been released.
But the death toll of a day of fighting could be a minor issue compared to the political fallout in the wake of Hassan’s killing, with opposition leader Saad Hariri hoping to parlay anti-Hezbollah sentiment into an ousting of the current coalition government, likely forcing new elections.
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