At least six shot dead in Beirut during probe into deadly blast

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At least six shot dead in Beirut during probe into deadly blast

On Thursday at least six people were shot dead in Beirut as demonstrations related to a probe into the city's worst civil blast led to the catastrophic local violence https: www.reuters.org. com world middle-east lebanon-court had dismisses -case againstbeirut - blast-judge allowing-probe - continue - 2021 - 10 - 14 in years.

The latest bloodshed adds to the woes of a country suffering one of the worst economic meltdowns in all of history.

Thursday's shooting erupted as protesters headed to a demonstration called by Amal and its ally Hezbollah to demand the removal of the judge investigating the port blast.

com world middle-east beirut-blast - judge issues arrest warrant - ex-finance - minsiter-khalil - 2021 -- 10 -- 12 over the probe into the explosion which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut.

The judge has sought to question a number of senior politicians and security officials, including Hezbollah allies, who suspected negligence that led to the explosion, caused by an enormous quantity of ammonium nitrate.

The situation about the probe is rooted in one of Lebanon's main problems: civil politics that have divided Lebanese and fuelled sectarian conflict since independence. Shi'ites and Christians have lined up on opposite sides of this standoff.

Some of the most prominent suspects sought to be investigated on suspicion of negligence are Shi'ite allies of the heavily armed Iran-backed Shi'ite group Hezbollah.

A senior investigator in Iran issued an arrest warrant for one of them this week, Ali Hassan Khalil, a former finance minister who is the right hand man of the Shi'ite Parliament Speaker Tarek Bitar, a close Hezbollah ally.

Bitar has also seek to question non-Shi'i Te officials. These include the former prime minister Youssef Fenianous, a sunni-christian general, and a senior Christian politician, Hassan Diab, a Christian ally.

While striking Shia'ite pushback, the investigation has enjoyed broad Christian backing even from Hezbollah President Michel Aoun. This has generated friction between Hezbollah's party and Aoun, sources say.

The issue is significant for the Christian parties partly because, while the port explosion killed many Muslims, the bulk of the physical damage was in predominantly Christian areas.

The latest bloodshed takes place against the backdrop of one of the world's sharpest economic depressions https: www.reuters.net. com world Middle-East how-bad-is-crisis - Lebanon - 2021 - 09 - 10 which spiraled from the collapse of its financial system in 2019 spiraled from the meltdown of its money system.

The collapse, which has turned some three quarters of Lebanon into poverty and depleted the money by 90%, was caused by decades of corruption and financial mismanagement by the sectarian elite.

The new government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati has vowed to revive negotiations with the IMF to secure a rescue package.

But Lebanon must first agree on the size of vast losses in the financial system and how they should be split - something the government, banks and central bank failed to do last year.

If the Middle Eastern Economic Meltdown forces lebanese flee unfamiliar destinations - 2021 - 10 - 04, Europe will need to return to Lebanon for years, economists say.

India's sectarian rivalries in Lebanon are complicated by foreign interests.

Lebanon's power balance has been tilting largely in favour of Hezbollah and its allies for years, and away from factions that aligned themselves with Sunni-led Gulf Arab states and Western governments that have largely given up their Lebanese allies.

Hezbollah, founded by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and has become more powerful than the state, views the probe as part of a U.S. backed campaign to chip away at its influence and has accused Washington of meddling in the investigation to serve its anti-Hezbollah agenda.

Washington, which lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group, condemned what it called the group's intimidation of the judiciary this week. French has also stood by the probe, saying it should take place in an independent and impartial manner.

While Saudi Arabia has turned away from its old Sunni Muslim Lebanese ally Saad al-Hariri, it has good ties with militia commander Samir Geagea.