Armed clashes erupted in Beirut in protest against the blast judge

BEIRUT – Armed clashes erupted in Beirut on Thursday in a protest against the top judge investigating last year’s massive explosion in the city’s port.

The protest outside the Justice Palace was called by the powerful group Hezbollah and its allies demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar. It is not yet clear what triggered the gunshot. A reporter at The Associated Press saw a man open fire with a pistol during the protest.

Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrates improperly stored in a port warehouse were blown up on Aug. 4, 2020, killing at least 215 people, injuring thousands and destroying parts of the nearby neighborhood. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and further devastated the country that roiled political divisions and unprecedented economic and financial sinking.

Bitar, the second judge to preside over the complex investigation, came against heavy opposition from Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group and its allies who accused him of uniting politicians for questioning, most of them is an ally of Hezbollah.

None of the Hezbollah officials have so far been charged with 14 months of investigation.

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