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Tripoli mourns native son’s violent death
File - Former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
File - Former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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TRIPOLI, Lebanon: As the news spread about the assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah, his hometown of Tripoli gradually turned into a ghost town with several shooting and street blocking incidents reported.

In the Tripoli neighborhoods of Beddawi, Zahrieh, Bab al-Tabbaneh, and Abu Ali River, residents repeatedly shot bullets into the air to protest the assassination. More than three grenades were tossed in Abu Ali River, while rocket-propelled grenades targeted the Hariri project area. No casualties were reported.

In Beddawi, dozens of residents blocked the highway that links Tripoli to Akkar with burning tires.

Intense shooting into the air was reported in Beddawi and Bab al-Tabbaneh, prompting vendors on Syria Street to close shop.

Army and security forces made several attempts to reopen the highway, but eventually yielded to the protesters’ will in order to avoid clashes with the angry mob.

Dozens of Tripoli residents also gathered in Bab al-Tabbaneh, near the Abu Ali River Bridge, where some of Shatah’s relatives still reside.

The former minister was born in 1951 in the impoverished Tripoli neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh.

However, most of his close friends and family are either residing in Beirut or immigrated to the U.S. prior to his appointment as the Lebanese ambassador to Washington in 1997.

Shatah’s family is waiting for the arrival of his brother and son from the United States in order to decide on the funeral arrangements.

Shatah had stated in his will that he wished to be buried beside his mother’s grave in a cemetery where other family members are interred. However, the March 14 coalition decided to bury him Sunday beside former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Downtown Beirut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 28, 2013, on page 3.
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