Mourners throng Lebanon funeral

Thousands attend funeral of slain MP Antoine Ghanem in Beirut amid grief and anger.

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.

Pallbearers on Friday made their way through a sea of Lebanese flags as they carried the coffins of Ghanem and two bodyguards to the Furn el-Sheback district of Beirut where the MP had his constituency.
“Ya habibi [my love], Ya habibi,” cried out Ghanem’s widow Lola as his coffin, draped with a Lebanese flag, left the Lebanese Canadian hospital where he was taken after Wednesday’s bomb blast that killed five people and wounded about 70.

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.



Deaths feed mutual
distrust in Lebanon

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.

Ghanem, a 64-year lawyer who had served in parliament since 2000, was was killed in the Beirut surburb of Sin el-Fil.
The attack, condemned by many world leaders, came ahead of next Tuesday’s presidential vote and outraged many Lebanese.
Ghanem’s killing has stirred fears of more political instability in the country.
Determined bloc

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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.

“It will only reinforce our determination to prevent the terrorists from succeeding.”
Ghanem is the eighth anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated in the last three years since the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister killed by a car bomb in early 2005.
Members of the March 14 coalition have called on Lebanese people to publicly show their disapproval of the assassination.
Relations strained

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 blast is the latest in a string of attacks
blamed on Syria and their proxies [AFP]

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.

Relations between parties within the March 14 bloc and Syria have remained poor since Damascus pulled its troops and security forces out of Lebanon in April 2005.
The evacuation of Syrian forces came two months after the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister and a critic of Syria.
Hezbollah, the main party in Lebanon’s pro-Syrian opposition, said the assassination was “a blow to the country’s security and stability as well as any attempt at reconciliation”.

Bombing condemned


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.


Fouad Siniora, Lebanon’s prime minister, has urged the UN to investigate Ghanem’s murder as part of its investigation into similar murders of anti-Syrian figures.


Members of the March 14 bloc have accused Syria of being behind a string of political assassinations and attacks since October 2004.


The March 14 bloc of parties is widely considered to be against any Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs. 


Schools closed


The Lebanese government announced a period of mourning in the aftermath of Ghanem’s murder.


Ghanem belonged to the Christian
Phalange party[EPA]

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.”

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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