Sunni Muslims took to the streets and burned tires across Lebanon in protest against the killing of senior intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan and seven others in a car bomb on Friday, witnesses said.
Protesters, infuriated by the death of the prominent Sunni, blocked roads in the eastern Bekaa valley region, the northern area of Akkar, neighborhoods of the capital Beirut and in the southern city of Sidon.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri accused Syrian President Bashar Assad – an Alawite Muslim- of being behind the huge car bomb which killed Hassan and at least seven other people in central Beirut on Friday.
The attack has brought the violence in neighboring Syria to the Lebanese capital, confirming fears that the conflict is infecting the surrounding region.
Lebanon’s religious communities are divided between those supporting Assad and those backing the rebels trying to overthrow him.
In the coastal city of Tripoli, gunshots could be heard from the district of Bab al-Tabbaneh, a Sunni area.
Gunmen there have occasionally clashed with rivals in neighboring Jebel Mohsen, an area full of Alawites, the sect that counts Assad as a member.
Witnesses in two districts of Beirut said enraged protesters had started attacking passing cars.
Meanwhile, Syria’s top ally in Lebanon, the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement, condemned the attack, expressing its “state of great shock over this terrible terrorist crime.”
It called on the authorities to catch the perpetrators and on all political forces in Lebanon to work against “every conspirator against the security, the life, the safety and security of the nation.”
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the blast “in strongest terms.” She said the U.S. had no information about the perpetrators.
Reuters and The Associated Press