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Lebanese protesters storm ministry buildings

2020-08-08 HKT 21:40
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  • Lebanese protesters storm ministry buildings
Lebanese protesters stormed government ministries in Beirut and trashed the offices of the Association of Lebanese Banks on Saturday, TV footage showed, as shots were fired in growing protests over this week's devastating explosion.

A policeman was killed during the clashes, a spokesman said.

A policeman at the scene said the officer died when he fell into an elevator shaft in a nearby building after being chased by protesters.

The Red Cross said it had treated 117 people for injuries on the scene while another 55 were taken to hospital. A fire broke out in central Martyrs' Square.

Dozens of protesters broke into the foreign ministry where they burnt a framed portrait of President Michel Aoun, representative for many of a political class that has ruled Lebanon for decades and that they say is to blame for its deep political and economic crises.

"We are staying here. We call on the Lebanese people to occupy all the ministries," a demonstrator said by megaphone.

About 10,000 people gathered in Martyrs' Square, some throwing stones. Police fired tear gas when some protesters tried to break through the barrier blocking a street leading to parliament, a Reuters journalist said.

Police confirmed shots and rubber bullets had been fired. It was not immediately clear who fired the shots.

TV footage showed protesters also breaking into the energy and economy ministries.

The protesters said their politicians should be hanged and punished over their negligence that they say led to Tuesday’s gigantic explosion that killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000.

The protesters chanted "the people want the fall of the regime", reprising a popular chant from the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. They held posters saying "Leave, you are all killers".

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the only way out was early parliamentary elections.

The protests were the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets in protest against the ruling elite's corruption, bad governance and mismanagement.

“You have no conscience, you have no morality. Go home! Leave! Resign, Enough is enough,” shouted one of the protesters. “What else do you want? You brought us poverty, death and destruction,” said another. "Resign or hang," said one banner.

Soldiers in vehicles mounted with machine guns patrolled the area. Ambulances rushed to the scene.

One teenager fainted after being overcome by tear gas. "Really the army is here? Are you here to shoot us? Join us and we can fight the government together," a woman yelled.

Tuesday's blast was the biggest in Beirut's history. Twenty-one people were still reported as missing from the explosion, which destroyed a large swathe of the city.

The government has promised to hold those responsible to account. But few Lebanese are convinced. Some set up nooses on wooden frames as a symbolic warning to Lebanese leaders.

The prime minister and presidency have said 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse. (Reuters)


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Last updated: 2020-08-09 HKT 02:37