Beirut in mourning after sectarian clashes evoke civil war memories

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Beirut protest
Beirut protest

Lebanon observed a day of mourning on Friday following deadly clashes between armed militias that killed at least six people and caused panic and fear in the capital.

Schools, banks and government institutions across the country were closed a day after gunfire erupted in Beirut’s Tayouneh and Badro neighbourhoods, evoking memories of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Tayouneh, which sits between predominantly Christian and Shiite Muslim neighbourhoods, was especially affected – as it was during the war.

“The Tayouneh area was a border area during the civil war. Yesterday we felt those days of sectarian fighting coming back,” Georgette Nahas, a Christian resident of the Badaro neighbourhood told dpa.

The violence broke out Thursday while protesters from the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement and their Amal allies were calling for the removal of judge Tarek Bitar, who is investigating last year’s massive blast at the city’s port.

It was still unclear who started the shooting, but Hezbollah has accused the Christian Lebanese Forces, a group that largely controls Badaro and nearby Ain al-Roumneh, of using snipers to shoot at their demonstrators.

The Lebanese Forces, who back Bitar in his investigations, denied the accusations.

Residents of Tayouneh were cleaning their apartments, shops and streets of shattered glass on Friday, while the Lebanese army observed tight security measures in the area.

“We were living in this area in peace with our Christian neighbours, but someone wants to drive Lebanon into a civil strife again,” said Fatima, a Shiite resident.

Hezbollah and Amal were scheduled to hold funerals for their followers who died later on Friday.

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