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Lebanon mourns ex-minister killed in bombing

BEIRUT--Lebanese mourners gathered in Beirut on Sunday to bury Mohamed Shatah, a prominent critic of the Syrian regime, killed in a car bombing that revived painful memories of political assassinations.

Shatah, 62, a Sunni Muslim former finance minister and close aide to ex-prime minister Saad Hariri, was killed on Friday along with six other people.

Dozens of others were wounded in the blast in the heart of Beirut, raising fears about the fragile situation in Lebanon, which has seen the war in neighboring Syria regularly spill over.

Heavy security was in place on Sunday, as the body of Shatah and his bodyguard Tarek Badr were transported from western Beirut to a mosque downtown for prayers and burial.

“There is no God but God, the martyr is the beloved of God,” mourners chanted as the bodies arrived.

Shatah will be interred at the mausoleum of Hariri's father Rafiq, who was also killed in a huge suicide bombing on the Beirut seafront on Feb. 14, 2005.

His supporters blamed Hariri's death on the Syrian regime and its ally, the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Army vehicles were stationed around the area of Sunday's funeral at the Mohamed al-Amin mosque, and cars were forbidden from parking nearby.

Hundreds of mourners gathered, including distraught members of Shatah's family and political dignitaries.

His coffin was brought into the mosque draped in a green and cream-striped material with religious verses on it, alongside that of his bodyguard Badr.

Inside the mosque, the coffins were laid side by side, and relatives of the two men stood by them, crying.

One of Shatah's sons gripped a relative of Badr's, embracing him as they both wept.

Outside the mosque, mourners in black watched the proceedings on a large screen, one waving a Lebanese flag.

Behind them stood a lit Christmas tree and a newly erected billboard declaring Shatah a “martyr for moderation.”

'We will build the country he dreamed of'

President Michel Sleiman has declared Sunday a national day of mourning, and hundreds of Lebanese were paying their respects.

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 Israel retaliates after multiple rockets fired from Lebanon 
The coffin of former Lebanese finance minister Mohammad Shatah is carried past the St. George Church into the adjacent Mohammed al-Amin mosque in downtown Beirut on Sunday, Dec. 29, two days after he was killed in a car bomb that detonated as he drove past.

(AFP)

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