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Lebanese Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

The Lebanese Forces chief says he was not aware of a summons over last week's violence that left seven people dead

AFP, Beirut

AFP, Beirut

Published: October 22, 2021 05:01 AM GMT

Updated: October 22, 2021 05:06 AM GMT

Lebanese Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea (right) meets with Marada Christian leader Suleiman Frangieh under the supervision of Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi (center) in Bkerke, near Beirut, in November 2018. (Photo: AFP)

The head of the Lebanese Forces Christian group, Samir Geagea, has been summoned for questioning over deadly violence that erupted at a Shia rally last week, a judicial official said.

Seven people were killed in Beirut on Oct. 14 during a protest organised by the Shia movements Amal and Hezbollah to demand Tarek Bitar, the judge investigating Beirut's powerful port blast, be removed.

Hezbollah and Amal accused the Lebanese Forces (LF), which supports the probe, of being responsible for sniper fire against the protesters that ignited street clashes. The Christian group denies the charges.

Fadi Akiki, a representative of the military court, had "instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members", the judicial official said.

Twenty-six people were arrested after the violence in the heart of the Lebanese capital, most of them LF members, the official said on Oct. 21. The exact circumstances of the violence remain unclear.

Geagea has denied responsiblity for the deaths, saying that residents of Beirut's Christian neighborhood of Ain al-Remmaneh had defended themselves against Hezbollah militiamen who tried to enter their homes.

The explosion of a huge stockpile of poorly stored fertilizer on the dockside in August 2020 killed more than 210 people

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Oct. 18 that his Iran-backed movement had 100,000 armed fighters at its disposal, and warned it is against sparking any "civil war."

On Oct. 21, Geagea told the Lebanon's MTV channel he was not aware of the summons. "I am ready to appear before the judge, on one condition: that Hassan Nasrallah does it before me," he said.

Nasrallah has been in hiding since the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

Tensions flared after Bitar summoned two Amal former ministers for questioning as part of the investigation into last year's devastating Beirut port blast.

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The explosion of a huge stockpile of poorly stored fertilizer on the dockside in August 2020 killed more than 210 people, wounded thousands and ravaged half the capital.

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