Blasts Accompany Crippling Lebanon Strike

Casualties unclear as workers demand higher wages amid government crisis
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2008 1:04 PM CDT
Lebanese soldiers stand by burning tires during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, May 7, 2008.    (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
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(Newser) – Explosions and gunfire sounded throughout Beirut today as a politically charged workers' strike turned violent. A Hezbollah-led opposition party had called for a one-day general strike, ostensibly for higher wages, the BBC reports. But things soon turned ugly, with flaming barricades along major roads, and gunfire between various factions in several neighborhoods; casualty figures remained unclear.

Reports say both pro- and anti-government forces might have fired rocket-propelled grenades. The strike’s main event, a march through Beirut, was called off because of the violence, which comes with Lebanon in its fifth month without a head of state. The crisis, the BBC notes, has been stoked by trouble between the pro-West, Saudi-backed government and the Syria- and Iran-influenced opposition.