Lebanon: Gunmen attack funeral procession

Gunmen opened fire on a funeral procession today in a Sunni neighbourhood of Beirut killing two and wounding six, a day after Shiite gunmen swept through the Lebanese capital’s Muslim sector, police said.

The shooting in the neighbourhood of Tarik Jadideh underlined the state of lawlessness that has engulfed the Lebanese capital’s Muslim sector since sectarian fighting erupted on Wednesday resulting in Hezbollah’s takeover of neighbourhoods from Sunnis loyal to the US-backed government.

Police said troops have captured the attacker.

An Associated Press photographer who witnessed the shooting said the attack came as a procession of 200 people headed toward a nearby cemetery to bury a 24-year-old killed in this week’s fighting.

Several mourners attacked the photographer, punching him on the face and head, and took away both cameras. Soldiers nearby intervened to break up the crowd which attacked him and retrieved one of the cameras.

Witnesses in the area said a car drove nearby and opened fire on the mourners, many of whom ran to take cover.

Tarik Jadideh was a stronghold of Sunni supporters of majority coalition leader Saad Hariri. Shiite gunmen did not enter that neighbourhood, where Lebanese troops deployed to prevent an onslaught by Hezbollah.

Beirut had a quiet night after the worst sectarian violence since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. But the violence moved outside the capital, leaving five more people dead. Counting in the deaths in the funeral shooting, the overall toll since Wednesday stood at 22 killed and dozens wounded.

In Beirut’s western Muslim sector, the focus of the fighting, most Hezbollah gunmen had pulled out leaving just small bands of their Shiite Amal allies to patrol the streets.

The army, meanwhile, reinforced its positions around the city and set up checkpoints.

The Christian sector of Beirut was peaceful and was not involved in the violence.

The army, which has stayed on the sidelines during the latest violence, brought in more armour and troops to seal off neighbourhoods where top pro-government leaders – Hariri of the Sunnis and Walid Jumblatt of the Druse – were holed up in their residences.

Hezbollah has shut Lebanon’s airport by barricading the road leading to it. The seaport is also closed.

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