Lebanese police scuffle with anti-government demonstrators enraged by blast
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Lebanese police scuffle with anti-government demonstrators enraged by blast

Catastrophic explosion is widely seen as a shocking expression of government incompetence, infuriating public already mired in economic crisis

An anti-government protester throws back a tear gas canister at riot police, during a protest against the political elites who have ruled the country for decades, in Beirut, Lebanon, August 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
An anti-government protester throws back a tear gas canister at riot police, during a protest against the political elites who have ruled the country for decades, in Beirut, Lebanon, August 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of anti-government demonstrators late Thursday in Beirut.

The demonstrators were angered by Tuesday’s cataclysmic blast, which is widely seen as the most shocking expression yet of their government’s incompetence.

The scuffles in central Beirut took place in a ravaged street leading to parliament, the wreckage from Tuesday’s explosion still littering the entire area.

Protesters had sparked a blaze, vandalized stores and lobbed stones at security forces, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Police responded with tear gas to disperse the small, but clearly furious crowd, wounding some demonstrators, NNA said.

Tuesday’s blast killed at least 149 people, wounded at least 5,000 and destroyed entire districts of the capital.

Lebanese authorities said it was triggered by a fire igniting 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate negligently stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s port since 2013.

Anti-government protesters throw stones and clash with riot police in Beirut, Lebanon, August 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

This raised questions as to how such a huge cargo of the highly explosive substance could have been left unsecured for so long.

The explosion came as Lebanon was already mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

It added to the grievances of a protest movement that emerged in October to demand the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

Activists have called for a large anti-government demonstration on Saturday — an event they have titled “hang them by the gallows.”

Thursday’s scuffles erupted as Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan resigned, saying “total negligence” by the country’s authorities signaled the need for a leadership change.

It is the second such resignation over Tuesday’s blast, after lawmaker Marwan Hamadeh also stepped down on Wednesday.

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