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Protesters try to storm Lebanese PM's office

BEIRUT -- Violence erupted in downtown Beirut on Sunday as protesters tried to storm the offices of Prime Minister Najib Mikati after the funeral of an assassinated intelligence chief whose death they blame on Syria.

Security forces shot into the air and police fired tear gas to repulse the hundreds of protesters who overturned barriers and threw stones and steel rods, witnesses said.

The clashes fed into a growing political crisis in Lebanon linked to the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

An angry crowd had marched on the prime minister's office after politicians at the funeral of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, who was killed by a car bomb on Friday, called on Mikati to resign over the killing.

The opposition and its supporters believe Mikati is too close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which is part of Mikati's government.

Many of the protesters waved flags from the anti-Syrian opposition Future Movement — a mainly Sunni Muslim party — and Christian Lebanese Forces as well as black Islamist flags.

They scattered after the security forces' action and there were no immediate reports of any casualties other than two people fainting.

Opposition leader Saad al-Hariri urged supporters to refrain from any more violence.

“We want peace, the government should fall but we want that in a peaceful way. I call on all those who are in the streets to pull back,” Hariri told supporters after the attack, speaking on Future Television channel.

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Police and protesters clash after the funeral of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan in Beirut, Sunday. (AP)

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