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Lebanon Shuts Down for Day of Mourning

It comes on the heels of gun battles between heavily armed militias that killed 6
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 15, 2021 3:38 AM CDT
Lebanon Holds Day of Mourning After Clashes Kill 6
Lebanese teachers flee their school under the protection of Lebanese soldiers after a clashes erupted along a former 1975-90 civil war front-line between Muslim Shiite and Christian areas at Ain el-Remaneh neighborhood, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(Newser) – Schools, banks, and government offices across Lebanon shut down Friday after hours of gun battles between heavily armed militias killed six people and terrorized the residents of Beirut. The government called for a day of mourning following the armed clashes, in which gunmen used automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the streets of the capital, echoing the nation’s darkest era of the 1975-90 civil war, the AP reports. The gun battles raised the specter of a return to sectarian violence in a country already struggling through one of the world’s worst economic crises of the past 150 years.

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The violence broke out Thursday at a protest organized by the two main Shiite parties— Hezbollah and the Amal Movement—calling for the removal of the lead judge investigating last year’s massive explosion at Beirut's port. Many of the protesters were armed. It was not clear who fired the first shot, but the confrontation quickly devolved into heavy exchanges of gunfire along a former civil war frontline separating predominantly Muslim and Christian areas of Beirut. Gunfire echoed for hours, and ambulances rushed to pick up casualties. Snipers shot from buildings. Bullets penetrated apartment windows in the area. Schools were evacuated and residents hid in shelters.

The two Shiite groups said their protesters came under fire from snipers deployed over rooftops, accusing the Christian right-wing Lebanese Forces militia of starting the shooting. Among the dead—all Shiites—were two Hezbollah fighters. Tensions over the port blast have contributed to Lebanon’s many troubles, including a currency collapse, hyperinflation, soaring poverty, and an energy crisis leading to extended electricity blackouts. The probe centers on hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate that were improperly stored at a port warehouse that detonated on Aug. 4, 2020. The blast killed at least 215 people, injured thousands, and destroyed parts of nearby neighborhoods. (Read more Lebanon stories.)

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