Slain official's funeral ends in Beirut violence
By Mariam Karouny and Angus MacSwan
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The state funeral in Beirut of an assassinated Lebanese intelligence chief ended in violence on Sunday as angry mourners broke away and tried to storm the offices of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, prompting security forces to shoot in the air and fire tear gas to repulse them.
The clashes fed into a growing political crisis in Lebanon linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Opposition leaders and their supporters accuse Syria of being behind the car bombing that killed Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan on Friday and say Mikati is too close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which is part of Mikati's government.
Thousands turned out in downtown Beirut's Martyrs' Square for Hassan's funeral, which also served as a political rally. The violence erupted after an opposition leader demanded that Mikati step down to pave the way for talks on the crisis.
A group marched to the prime minister's office, then overturned barriers, pulled apart barbed wire coils and threw stones, steel rods and bottle at soldiers and police.
Security forces responded by shooting into air and firing teargas, forcing the protesters to scatter. There were no immediate reports of casualties but the violence was nonetheless shocking to Lebanese who fear the Syrian conflict will spread to their country.
Opposition leader Saad al-Hariri urged supporters to refrain from any more violence.
"We want peace, the government should fall but we want that in a peaceful way. I call on all those who are in the streets to pull back," Hariri told supporters after the attack, speaking on the Future Television channel. Continued...