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Protests across Lebanon after security chief killing

Residents have blocked roads across Lebanon to protest the bombing in Beirut that killed a security chief and at least three other people. Lebanon's fragile cabinet called an emergency meeting as factions trade blame.

Angry protestors took to the streets of Lebanon on Saturday, protesting what local media report is a response to the killing of a top-security official a day earlier. Local television stations say the demonstrations occurred in the mainly Sunni Muslim areas of Beirut, the southern city of Sidon and Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli.

Lebanon's cabinet held an emergency meeting chaired by President Michel Suleiman to discuss Friday's bombing in a mainly Christian district of Beirut, which killed internal intelligence chief General Wissam al-Hassan.

The killing amounted to one of Lebanon's highest profile killings since the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese premier, Rafiq Hariri.

Hariri's son Saad and Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt on Friday accused President Bashar Assad of neighboring war-torn Syria of being behind what they called "the assassination." They added Hassan had been the "guarantor of the security of the Lebanese."

Hassan had headed Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF), which had played a central role in the August arrest of former Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha, who had had close links to Damascus.

The news agencies Reuters and dpa say Hassan had returned to Beirut on Thursday night from a conference in Germany.

Lebanon's cabinet, which is dominated by the pro-Syria Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, called for a day of mourning on Saturday.

Close-up of Mikati at a press conference. Photo: AP Photo/Mahmoud Tawil

Mikati is facing opposition calls to quit

No claim of responsibility

At least 80 people were also wounded in Friday's attack, which has been condemned by many Western nations, including the governments of Syria and Iran.

So far, there have been no claims of responsibility for the attack.

The secretary-general of Lebanon's opposition Future movement, Ahmad Hariri called on Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign from office.

"The government must leave," Hariri said.

Mikati's office replied that the bombing was a "heinous crime" which had "tragic consequences."

Civil-war memories rekindled

Friday's attack has rekindled memories of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war when Syrian troops entered the country under an Arab League mandate.

International outcry, which followed Hariri's assassination in 2005, eventually prompted Syria to withdraw its troops.

No one has ever been tried for Hariri's murder, but a UN-backed tribunal accused four members of Hezbollah.

ipj/jlw (dpa, dapd, AFP)

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