Armed clash erupts in Beirut in protest against judge in blast inquiry

The protest outside the Justice Palace was called for by the powerful Hezbollah group.

Armed clash erupts in Beirut in protest against judge in blast inquiry

Armed clashes have broken out in Beirut during a protest against the lead judge investigating last year’s massive blast in the city’s port.

The protest outside the Justice Palace was called by the powerful Hezbollah group and its allies who are demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the gunfire. A journalist with the Associated Press saw one man open fire with a pistol during the protest.

Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrates that were improperly stored at a port warehouse detonated on August 4 2020, killing at least 215 people, injuring thousands and destroying parts of nearby neighbourhoods.

It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and has further devastated a country already hit by political divisions and unprecedented economic and financial meltdown.

Mr Bitar, the second judge to lead the complicated investigation, has come up against formidable opposition from Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group and its allies who accuse him of singling out politicians for questioning, most of them allied with Hezbollah.

None of the group’s officials have so far been charged in the 14-month-old investigation.

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