Lebanon rocked by protest a day after bomb kills top official


Protests rock Lebanon a day after the killing of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, Lebanon's intelligence chief.


Joseph Eid

Protests rocked Lebanon Saturday over the killing of the country's top intelligence official yesterday in a massive bomb blast.

Wissam al-Hassan, 47, head of the intelligence division of Lebanon's domestic security, was killed along with seven others in a blast in downtown Beirut in what may be a spillover from the Syrian civil war.

Sunni Muslim protesters burned tires and set up roadblocks around the country over the killing.

Clashes also broke out in Lebanon's second city, Tripoli, where gunfire was heard, a source told GlobalPost, and one person was reported killed, 

The Lebanese security forces moved in to restore calm in the city, reported LBC International, which has seen violent clashes linked to Syria's civil war over the last few months.

The Associated Press reported that the Lebanese cabinet met in an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the events and declared a national day of mourning.

The country's Western-leaning opposition is calling on Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is part of the Hezbollah-backed March 8 movement, to step down from his post.

Yet, Mikati has said that the incident's connection with Syria was almost undeniable, reported the Associated Press.

At first glance, the killing does appear to be tied to Syria's ongoing civil war as well as allies of Syria's President Assad.

Al-Hassan headed an investigation this summer that ended in the arrest of former information Minister Michel Samaha, who was accused of bringing bombs into Lebanon from Syria.

Samaha was a close ally and aide to Assad.

He was also involved in the investigation of the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minster Rafik Hariri which led to the indictment of four members of the Syrian-linked Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Al-Hassan had also worked to break-up several Israeli spy rings in the country over the last few years, said the Associated Press.

Iran, an ally of Syria, condemned the bombing Saturday and fingered Israel for the attack.

"This action was taken with the aim of sowing dissension among different currents and segments of the Lebanese people and was conducted by an element who has never had in mind the interests of the Lebanese people and government and who only strives for its own impure interests and goals," said a statement posted on the Iranian Foreign Ministry's website, reported Reuters.

Israel said that the accusation was "beyond pathetic."

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