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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Beirut port blast: Gunfire erupts at protest against judge leading probe


Two people have been shot dead at a protest in the Lebanese capital Beirut against the judge investigating last year’s devastating port explosion.

Several others were injured near the Palace of Justice as supporters of the Hezbollah and Amal movements demanded that Judge Tarek Bitar be replaced.

It’s unclear who fired first or why.

The investigation into the port blast is fraught with controversy, with Hezbollah accusing the judge of unfairly targeting allied former government ministers.

Previously, a court dismissed a legal complaint filed by two of the five politicians who Judge Bitar sought to question on suspicion of negligence.

Families of those killed in the port explosion protested the move, which resulted in the investigation being halted for the second time in three weeks.

They claim that the country’s political leaders are attempting to shield themselves and senior officials from scrutiny.

No one has been held accountable for the August 2020 disaster, which killed 219 people, injured 7,000, and destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings.

A fire set off the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a combustible chemical widely used as agricultural fertiliser that had been stored in an unsafe manner in a port warehouse for nearly six years.

Senior officials were aware of the existence of the material and the danger it posed, but they failed to secure, remove, or destroy it.

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