Clashes in Lebanon as protests over ailing economy rage

Clashes as hundreds protest in Lebanon over ailing economy

A Lebanese demonstrator gestures to a Lebanese soldier, during a protest against the collapsing Lebanese pound currency and the price hikes, in Zouk, north of Beirut, Lebanon. (Reuters photo)

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli late Monday over a deteriorating economy, triggering clashes with security forces despite a coronavirus lockdown, an AFP correspondent said.

Men, women and children had marched through the streets, chanting "revolution, revolution".

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They tried to reach the house of a parliamentarian but were pushed back by the army, sparking clashes, the correspondent said.

Some protesters threw stones, and the army shot into the air to try to disperse the crowd in the area of Al-Nour Square.

The National News Agency said the facade of a bank was smashed.

The army said fire had been set to several bank branches, and a molotov cocktail tossed at a military vehicle.

In a statement after midnight, it called on "peaceful protesters" to evacuate the streets.

The Red Cross said it had transported three people to hospital, and treated others at the scene.

Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, now compounded by a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than half of its value, and prices have soared.

This is the case across the country, but Tripoli has been especially hard hit because more than half of its population had already been living at or below the poverty line.

When mass protests erupted across Lebanon in October against perceived official graft and mismanagement, Tripoli fast became known as the "bride" of the street movement.

In the southern city of Sidon, protesters threw stones and fire crackers at the central bank headquarters late Monday, the NNA said.

Earlier in the day, protesters attempted to block roads elsewhere in the country.

On April 17, hundreds demonstrated in Tripoli to mark six months since the start of the protests, which had petered out in recent months as a new government attempts to tackle the economy.

Late Saturday, assailants lobbed an explosive device at a bank in Sidon.

The attack came a day after Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Lebanese bank deposits had plunged $5.7 billion in the first two months of the year, despite curbs on withdrawals and a ban on transfers abroad.

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