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Thousands gather for slain minister's funeral in Lebanon

Thousands gather for slain minister's funeral in Lebanon
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The funeral has taken place for the assassinated Lebanese politician Pierre Gemayel. A large convoy of cars and buses followed the cortege from his home village of Bikfaya to Beirut, turning the procession into a political rally. The 34-year-old industry minister and Maronite Christian was gunned down in Beirut on Tuesday.

Many believe Syria was behind the attack although Damascus has denied any involvement. Foreign envoys joined the Gemayel family in the congregation at St George’s Cathedral. The Maronite Patriarch who conducted the funeral rites called on people not to take revenge for Gemayel’s death. But with tensions and emotions running high across the country, authorities took no chances and heavy security was deployed around the capital.

As Gemayel’s body was taken back to Bikfaya for burial, thousands demonstrated in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square against Hezbollah and what they see as Syrian influence in Lebanese politics. Gemayel is the sixth outspoken critic of Damascus to be killed in the last two years and his assassination has intensified an acute political crisis.

The death or resignation of two more cabinet ministers would bring down Lebanon’s government. Even before the latest killing, Hezbollah was being accused of trying to topple the government it described as a “mere puppet of Washington”. 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.