There are signs that the tense political standoff in Lebanon is degenerating into violence among the population. A Shi’ite Muslim man was shot dead in a Sunni neighbourhood as he returned from the third day of protests against the Western-backed government. The victim, identified by relatives as Ahmed Mahmoud, was reportedly shot in the back by gunmen. Twelve others were injured. An investigation into his death is underway.
Earlier police were forced to intervene when sporadic rioting and looting broke out. The army dispersed a crowd which stoned a van full of protestors in a Sunni neighbourhood. The demonstrations against the pro-Western government started peacefully on Friday but the situation has since escalated. On a visit to Beirut, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa appealed for calm:
“We hope that it won’t escalate. Our job is to work with all the parties on the basis of retrieving the national unity in Lebanon. And we believe that all the Lebanese are in the same boat,” he told reporters. Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, has vowed to stay in office despite the protests aimed at forcing him into resigning. He has intimated that the anti-Syrian coalition backing him might stage counter-protests if the action continues.