Tens of thousands of people have gathered in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, for the funeral of Pierre Gemayel, the leading anti-Syrian politician. The Lebanese Industry Minister was shot dead on Tuesday. His father, former Lebanese president, Amin Gemayel, led mourners at St George’s Maronite Cathedral.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the son of murdered leader Rafik al-Hariri were among the congregation. A large convoy of cars and buses followed the funeral cortege from his home village, Bikfaya to Beirut. The funeral is also being seen as a political rally. Hundreds of troops have been deployed in the capital, with the country in a state of high tension. Many are in Martyrs’ Square to protest against Hizbollah and what they see as Syrian influence in Lebanese politics. But Syria has rejected accusations that it was involved with the assassination, saying that it would serve no purpose.
Security has been boosted across Beirut amid fears anger will erupt into violence over the death of a man some are calling a hero and a martyr. Gemayel is the sixth outspoken critic of Damascus to be killed in the last two years and his death has intensified an acute political crisis.
The death or resignation of two more cabinet ministers would bring down the government. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has agreed to help investigate the death. The probe will be handled by the UN special tribunal set up to look into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.