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Heavy gunfire rattles Beirut in wake of funeral

Unrest in Beirut showed little sign of abating early Monday as heavy gunfire rocked the western part of the city. The violence comes in the wake of a state funeral for an intelligence chief killed in a bomb blast.

Lebanese opposition leaders and their supporters accuse Syria of being behind the car bombing that killed Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan and two others on Friday.

They have also accused Prime Minister Najib Mikati of being too close to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and have demanded that Mikati step down.

Thousands turned out in downtown Beirut's Martyrs' Square for Hassan's funeral on Sunday, which essential became a political rally.

One group tried to storm the prime minister's office, overturning barriers and throwing stones and bottles at soldiers and police.

The crowd marching to Mikati's office was forced to scatter when authorities shot into the air and fired teargas.

Gunfire exchanged

Later on Sunday night and early Monday, gunmen using rifles and rocket-propelled grenades reportedly exchanged fire in the southern districts of Beirut.

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Lebanon: Tensions high after heavy clashes

Soldiers prevented reporters and photographers from approaching the area. Local television station, Al-Jadeed, carried appeals from residents for the injured to be evacuated, according to the AFP news agency.

No deaths were reported in the capital, but a 9-year-old girl was killed by a sniper in the northern city of Tripoli during clashes there between supporters and opponents of Assad's regime. Several others were wounded in the clashes.

US offers to help

The United States, which has condemned Hassan's assassination, on Sunday offered to help find his killers.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Mikati on Sunday. The two agreed that Washington would help with the investigation.                          

tm/lw (AFP, Reuters)

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