Protests erupt over Beirut’s deadly explosion

The deadly explosion in Beirut last week was followed by a wave of protests erupting in central Beirut.

Many Lebanese citizens are blaming their leaders’ incompetence, for the deadly explosion that leveled the city’s main port last Tuesday.

The blast sent a shock wave through Lebanon’s capital, destroyed entire neighborhoods, killed at least 154 people, injured about 5,000 and pushed at least 250,000 from their homes.

Reports say the explosion was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which was being stored at the wharf.

Ammonium nitrate — typically used to make fertilizers and explosives — is believed to have been carried on a vessel owned by a Russian businessman, who allegedly abandoned the cargo at the port roughly seven years ago.

In addition to the explosive material, “30 to 40 nylon bags of fireworks” confiscated in 2010 were stored in the same wharf-side hangar.

A former port worker, says the bags were confiscated in 2010 were in the same warehouse as the ammonium nitrate.

Violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces turned central Beirut into a battle zone. Rocks flew, batons were used and clouds of tear gas were fired at protesters.

The protesters are calling for the resignation of the country’s political elite.

Word of Saturday’s planned protest spread online Friday with calls for demonstrators to gather in Martyrs’ Square.

The Square became a central location for uprisings that ousted the country’s prime minister last year, although the political system remained intact.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on Thursday promising aid. He appeared to be sympathetic to protesters calling for a new political order in Lebanon.

However Macron, whose country previously ruled Lebanon as a colonial power, said France would not give “blank checks to a system that no longer has the trust of its people.”

He said he would call for “a new political pact” when he met with Lebanon’s political leaders later in the day.

Since the end of the country’s civil war in 1990, Lebanon has had a sectarian power-sharing government.

The president of the government must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of Parliament must be a Shiite Muslim.

The factions in power — including Iranian-backed Hezbollah — have used the system for appointing friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.

The result has led to widespread corruption in the government.

The corruption has extended to the port of Beirut. Bribery is said to be rampant and goods are often hidden from taxes and duties.

The prime minister has vowed to investigate it and hold all those who were behind it accountable.

However, doubts that justice will be done abound Lebanon, which has a long history of civil strife and assassinations whose perpetrators were never prosecuted.




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