Instability feared in Lebanon after assassination

Sunni-Shia tensions after sniper attack
Sunni-Shia tensions after sniper attack

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Story highlights

  • Several groups say Friday's car bombing was aimed to destabilize Lebanon
  • The bomb killed the country's intelligence chief
  • There are calls for the Lebanese Cabinet to step down
  • Authorities reveal that the bomb was placed inside a stolen Toyota

Lebanese troops were deployed to the streets Tuesday to calm tensions amid mounting fears that last week's deadly car bombing in Beirut could spill into Lebanon and drag the country into Syria's bloody civil war.

At least 100 people, including 31 Syrians, were apprehended in raids in Beirut and the Lebanese port city of Tripoli, the state-run news outlet NNA reported. Fifteen soldiers, including two officers, were slightly wounded during the operations, the NNA said.

"These units are still storming into places where gunmen are hiding in Beirut and Tripoli," the Lebanese Army Command said in a statement.

Lebanese tanks, armored personnel carriers and soldiers have patrolled the two cities in wake of the car bombing that killed the nation's top intelligence chief. On Monday, seven people were killed in unrest in Tripoli in clashes among rivaling groups of Sunnis and Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, NNA reported.

Friday's bombing killed the nation's intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, who had criticized the Syrian government for meddling in Lebanon's affairs and blamed Damascus for political assassinations.

What you need to know about Lebanon, Syria

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Rage erupts in Beirut
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Sectarian violence explodes in Beirut
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The international community is monitoring the situation closely.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, on Tuesday was the latest to express "concern about the stability of Lebanon," following a meeting with the country's prime minister, the state-run news outlet NNA reported.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire supported by Syrian ally Hezbollah, is now facing challenges to his leadership. On Tuesday, lawmaker Khaled Daher said he will call people to the streets if Mikati's Cabinet does not step down.

"We demand this Cabinet step down because it has done nothing but shroud the country in chaos, at all levels, reaching economic bodies," Daher told Orient Radio.

The Cabinet has become a huge burden that has served Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime the most, the lawmaker said.

Who are the key players in the crisis?

Al-Assad's government holds significant influence in Lebanon, and many believe the Syrian leader wants to promote instability in Lebanon to divert attention from the civil war in his own country.

Hezbollah, a powerful political faction in Lebanon backed by Iran and Syria, also released a statement Tuesday saying the assassination was an attempt to create instability.

The bombing was meant to "incite internal strife," Hezbollah Deputy Secretary Gen. Sheikh Naim Qassem said on the group's website. Hezbollah, a Shiite militia, plays a prominent role in Lebanon's government and is branded a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.

In other developments Tuesday, Lebanon's interior minister said investigators have found that the car bomb was placed inside a stolen Toyota RAV4, a lead that could help the probe.

Meanwhile, Mikati signed a declaration referring al-Hassan's assassination to the nation's Judicial Council.

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