Lebanese protesters back in streets; first death reported - GulfToday

Lebanese protesters back in streets; first death reported


Lebanese anti-government protesters set tyres on fire at the entrance of Tripoli. Ibrahim Chalhoub/AFP

Lebanese protesters are blocking major highways with burning tires and roadblocks, saying they will remain in the streets following a televised interview in which the president urged them to go home.

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A Lebanese protester sits on the floor next to a burning barricade in Beirut on Wednesday. Patrick Baz/AFP

A man was killed by a Lebanese soldier during Tuesday night protests, marking the first such fatality since nationwide demonstrations engulfed the country on Oct. 17.

The protesters took to the streets after President Michel Aoun said in a televised interview that there could be further delays before a new government is formed. He also called on those protesting to go home, warning of a catastrophe if the mass protests keep paralysing the country.

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A local official for a Lebanese political party was shot dead by soldiers trying to open a road closed by protesters in southern Beirut late Tuesday, the army reported, marking the first death in 27 days of nationwide protests.

A Lebanese protester flashes the victory sign in front of burning tyres at the entrance of Tripoli, Lebanon. AFP

An army statement said the man was shot in the Khaldeh neighborhood after an altercation during which a soldier opened fire to disperse the crowd, hitting one person. It said the army command had opened an investigation into the killing after arresting the soldier.

The incident was sure to inflame tensions already running high in the country, which has been engulfed by nationwide protests against the country's entire political class since Oct. 17. The leaderless, economically driven protests were triggered by new proposed taxes and have quickly evolved into the most spread and most sustained Lebanon has seen in years.

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The man was identified as a local official with the Progressive Socialist Party headed by Walid Jumblatt, political leader of Lebanon's Druze community. It was confirmed by the party's Al-Anbaa newspaper.

The black smoke billows from burning tyres, set on fire by Lebanese protesters in Dbayeh, Lebanon, on Wednesday. AFP

Jumblatt told an angry crowd outside the hospital where the man died of his wounds to calm down, saying that "no one will protect us but the state." He added that he spoke with the army chief and was told about the investigation.

Protesters had poured into the streets Tuesday night closing roads around Lebanon after President Michel Aoun said in a televised interview that there could be further delays before a new government is formed.

Anti-government protesters block a major highway in the town of Nahr El Kalb, north of Beirut on Wednesday. AP

He said it could take days to set a date for consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs for the naming of a new prime minister and added that the best option is for the new Cabinet to include both politicians and technocrats. Protesters have demanded a Cabinet without politicians

Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government Oct. 29 in response to the unprecedented nationwide protests since the middle of last month. The protests have snowballed into calls for the government to resign and for the entire political elite that has governed Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war to step aside.

An anti-government protester tries to cross a major highway in the town of Nahr El Kalb in Lebanon on Wednesday. AP

Protesters are demanding a government made up of technocrats that would get immediately to work on the necessary reforms to address the worst economic and financial crisis Lebanon is passing through in decades. Politicians are divided among other things over whether the new Cabinet should be made up of experts only or include politicians.

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