BEIRUT, Lebanon – At least seven civilians were killed Sunday evening during an hourslong clash between Lebanese soldiers and young Shiite Muslim men protesting electricity cuts, security officials said.
A dozen or more people were wounded in the melee when gunfire erupted as demonstrators were throwing rocks and fireworks at a phalanx of troops.
Several residents in an adjacent Christian neighborhood were injured by a hand-grenade explosion, Lebanese television reported.
The violence came two days after a massive car bomb killed one of the country’s top intelligence officials and 12 days after another explosion struck a U.S. Embassy convoy, killing three civilians. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora declared today a day of national mourning and ordered universities and schools closed.
“In these moments, our country is passing through its most difficult and dangerous times,” he said.
The violence was the latest sign of deteriorating security in a country that has been paralyzed by a political standoff between two camps, one favoring the West and the other backed by Iran and Syria, over the formation of a new government.
The fighting erupted near the southern Beirut neighborhood of Ain al-Roumaneh, site of a 1975 massacre of Palestinians that helped spark a 15-year civil war in Lebanon.