Thousands of Lebanese have attended the funeral of lawmaker Antoine Ghanem who was killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut on Wednesday. He died along with four others in the blast in the Christian quarter.
Ghanem was the seventh anti-Syrian figure to be killed since the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri which triggered the pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon. His allies blamed his death on Damascus which has denied any involvement and condemned the blast.
Mourners flooded streets in Christian east Beirut, waving the white and green flag of the Phalange Party to which Ghanem belonged – as did former industry minister Pierre Gemayel, who was assassinated nearly a year ago. Party anthems blared from loudspeakers as pallbearers carried Ghanem and his two bodyguards’ coffins to the Sacre Coeur church.
His death comes just days ahead of a planned vote in parliament to elect a new president to replace pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud. Analysts believe the election is unlikely to go ahead in the absence of a deal between rival leaders. Choosing a new president in the two months before Lahoud’s term expires is seen as a vital step towards ending Lebanon’s worst political crisis since the civil war.