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HomeBusinessShots in Beirut as Hezbollah supporters protest blast investigator By Reuters

Shots in Beirut as Hezbollah supporters protest blast investigator By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An overview shows the site of the 2020 Beirut port explosion, Lebanon, Oct. 13, 2021. Arabic reads: “The right to justice.” REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Heavy gunfire was heard in Beirut on Thursday near an area where supporters of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and their allies gathered to protest against the judge investigating the catastrophic port explosion last year.

People ran for cover as gunshots and ambulance sirens could be heard on a live broadcast on Lebanese al-Jadeed television. His reporter at the scene said the source of the Tayouneh roundabout shooting was not immediately clear.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

On Thursday, a court dismissed a legal complaint against Judge Tarek Bitar, documents showed, allowing him to resume his investigation into the August blast, which killed more than 200 people.

Bitar has come under enormous pressure from groups accusing him of bias, and Hezbollah has led calls for his removal.

The Tayouneh area is located on the border between the Christian and Shiite Muslim neighborhoods of Beirut, and was a front line in the 1975-90 civil war. It is on the way from the predominantly Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut to the Palace of Justice, where the protest was to take place.

Tensions over Bitar’s investigation into the blast, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, are fueling divisions in Lebanon and diverting the new government’s focus from tackling an economic collapse.

Bitar’s opponents have opposed his attempts to question senior politicians and security officials on suspicion of negligence that allowed a large amount of ammonium nitrate to explode, killing more than 200 people and devastating much of Beirut.

Several hundred men gathered near the judicial palace in the early hours of Thursday to participate in the protest. Some stepped on a photo of Bitar. The Lebanese army was heavily deployed in the area.

Although none of its members have been targeted, the heavily armed and Iranian-backed Hezbollah has accused Bitar of carrying out a politicized investigation that focused solely on certain individuals.

These include some of his closest allies, including high-level figures in the Amal Shiite Movement who held ministerial posts during the seven years that ammonium nitrate was stored insecurely at the port.

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