A series of assassinations bodes ill for the democratic process.
|Ghanem is the eighth anti-Syrian figure to have been killed in last three years [AFP]|
Thousands of mourners have turned out for the funeral of Antoine Ghanem, an anti-Syrian MP killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut two days ago.
The cortege slowly made its way to the nearby Sacre Coeur church, where several leading members of Lebanon‘s anti-Syrian parliamentary majority attended the funeral service, in what was as much a political as a family event.
Ghanem was buried in a Furn el-Sheback cemetery.
Day of mourning
Flags flew at half mast and schools and businesses were shut as the government declared a day of official mourning for the funeral.
Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut, said there was an overwhelming mood of anger among those attending the funeral.
Khodr said supporters of Ghanem were chanting anti-Syrian slogans. “A lot of people here are blaming Damascus for the killing,” she said.
Syria has denied the accusations and condemned Wednesday’s blast.
“I hope the Lebanese will be united and will not make Lebanon, their homeland, another battleground”
Brutus, Lahore, Pakistan
The majority bloc in Lebanon’s government has insisted that the forthcoming vote to elect a new president will not be derailed by the assassination of Ghanem, who belonged to the Phalange party allied to the anti-Syrian March 14 bloc.
Ghazi Aridi, Lebanon’s information minister, said: “We do not fear terrorism and this will not break our will.
Ghanem’s assassination came as Lebanese deputies were beginning preparations to elect a successor to Emile Lahoud, Lebanon’s president and a pro-Syrian figure.
The latest attack has been blamed on neighbouring Syria, but Damascus has denied any involvement, saying the bombing was a “criminal act” aimed at undermining efforts at a rapprochement with Lebanon.
The United Nations and several foreign governments have condemned the car bombing.
“The security council reiterates its condemnation of all targeted assassinations of Lebanese leaders … and demands an immediate end of the use of intimidation and violence against the representatives of the Lebanese people and institutions,” the UN Security Council said in a non-binding statement which was approved by all 15 members.
The March 14 bloc of parties is widely considered to be against any Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs.
The Lebanese government announced a period of mourning in the aftermath of Ghanem’s murder.
The education ministry said all schools and universities will remain closed until Friday.
Fearing for his life, Ghanem had fled into exile following the assassination in June of Walid Eido, another anti-Syrian MP from the March 14 bloc, and only returned to Lebanon on Sunday.
Ghanem’s death has reduced the bloc’s majority in parliament to 68 members out of the 127-member house, with numbers set to play a key role in the presidential vote.
“This is an attack aimed at sabotaging all efforts to reach a solution to the current political crisis,” Butros Harb, an MP and presidential candidate, said.
“You cannot separate this killing from the presidential election.”