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Middle east

Beirut holds funeral for slain politician Mohamed Chatah


Video by Adam PLETTS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-29

Hundreds of Lebanese mourners gathered on Sunday in Beirut to lay to rest Mohamed Chatah, a former finance minister opposed to the Syrian regime who was killed in a car bombing that his supporters blame on the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Security was tightened in the Lebanese capital as the bodies of Chatah and his bodyguard, Tarek Badr, were transported from Western Beirut to a mosque downtown, where senior political officials attended the burial.

Chatah, 62, a Sunni Muslim aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, was killed on Friday along with at least six other people in a car bombing amid heightened sectarian tensions. Dozens of others were wounded in the blast in the heart of Beirut, raising fears about the fragile situation in Lebanon, which has seen the war in neighbouring Syria regularly spill over.

Chatah’s supporters blamed the assassination on the Syrian regime and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. The country’s growing sectarian tensions were reflected in the mourners’ angry slogans against Hezbollah, according to the AP news agency.

Chatah will be interred at the mausoleum of Hariri's father Rafiq, who was also killed in a huge suicide bombing on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.

Rising tensions

Chatah was seen as an influential figure in the March 14 coalition, which is opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its ally, Hezbollah.

The politician’s assassination stirred painful memories of a string of bombings that hit Lebanon between 2005 and 2012, targeting prominent figures that were critical of the Syrian regime.

Hariri‘s accusation ‘not surprising‘

Chatah is the ninth high-profile Syrian regime critic killed in Lebanon since Hariri's assassination, and his death raised new fears of instability in Lebanon.

The war in neighbouring Syria has exacerbated existing tensions in ever-fragile Lebanon.

Hezbollah backs Syria's Assad, and has dispatched fighters to help him battle against opposition forces.

But many Lebanese Sunnis support the Sunni-dominated Syrian uprising, and some have travelled across the porous border to fight with the opposition.

In recent months, bomb attacks have targeted Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut, as well as the Sunni town of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, killing dozens of people.

On November 19, a twin suicide bomb attack on the Beirut embassy of Iran, the main ally of both Hezbollah and Syria, killed 25 people. It was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades.

Lebanon is also hosting more than 850,000 registered Syrian refugees, which has created economic and social tensions in the country.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2013-12-29


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