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Two explosions heard in Beirut after clashes involving Hezbollah supporters, one dead

Two explosions have been heard in Beirut as at least one person is killed by gunfire during a protest against the judge in the city’s port blast probe.

At least eight people were also wounded as gunfire erupted near the protest site, according to hospital source.

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Rocket-propelled grenades were fired, according to Al Arabiya sources.

The Lebanese army reportedly fired shots to disperse a crowd in Beirut, and Hezbollah and supporters of the Amal Movement are said to have fired back, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.

The army has arrested a sniper in Badoro Street, according to al-Jadeed.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati has called for calm, adding in a statement with the army chief that steps are being taken to control the situation.

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.

Images of people running in the street and trying to take cover were broadcast by news channel al-Jadeed.

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

A Lebanese court on Thursday dismissed a legal complaint brought against the lead investigator of last year’s Beirut port blast probe, allowing him to resume work, court documents showed.

The probe into the catastrophic August explosion, which killed more than 200, was suspended this week following the complaint by two top politicians, one of whom lead judge Tarek Bitar had issued an arrest warrant for.

Bitar has been under enormous pressure from groups that accuse his investigation of bias and have mounted a smear campaign against him that spilled over into cabinet on Tuesday, tipping the country into a new crisis as it battles an economic meltdown.

The powerful Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah group has led calls for Bitar’s removal and accused him of being politicized, and plans protests alongside the Shia Amal movement on Thursday in Beirut to demand that he go.

This week’s complaint was the latest in a series filed against Bitar him by various politicians he wanted to question over their knowledge of the chemicals that triggered the explosion after having been stored unsafely at the port for years.

It was brought forward by former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former public works minister Ghazi Zeiter.

Bitar had issued an arrest warrant for Khalil, the right-hand man of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri - the most senior Shia in the state - and a close Hezbollah ally, shortly before the investigation was suspended.

Al Arabiya
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