Several killed in Lebanon clashes

The violence broke out early Thursday in the southern Hay al-Sellom neighbourhood, where protesters were responding to a strike call by labour unions.

Riots spread across several parts of the city, as people vented their anger at the high cost of living and the government’s economic policies.

Witnesses say troops fired shots to disperse the crowd, killing several demonstrators.

Protesters, angered by the shootings, set the Labour Ministry on fire, while others threw stones at soldiers trying to control the crowds.

Demonstrators blocked roads with burning tyres, including the Beirut International Airport highway and the main road out of the capital toward Syria.

Schools, universities and many businesses closed and traffic was thin on the normally congested streets of the Lebanese capital.

Lebanon’s Public Prosecutor Adnan Addoum said preliminary reports showed four men and a woman were killed during the violence, but said the toll might change.

Hospital sources said at least three people died of bullet wounds, as more casualties arrived at nearby hospitals, some in serious conditions.

Lebanon’s General Labour Confederation (GLC), which called the strike, urged an end to the protests and said it was working with political parties to try to restore calm.

Unions have lambasted efforts by the government to cut spending and increase revenues from privatisation and tax, saying they hurt the poor.

They have called on the state to cap soaring petrol prices and to lower taxes.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has called for an inquiry into the unrest, the country’s bloodiest clashes in a decade, as the capital gears up to host an OPEC summit next week.

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