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Crowds vent at Syria in Beirut funeral

Slain legislator draws tens of thousands

A policeman yesterday watched mourners follow an ambulance carrying the coffin of Walid Eido, slain by a bomb, in Beirut. (Hussein Malla/Associated Press)

BEIRUT -- The funeral for an anti-Syrian lawmaker killed by a car bomb swelled yesterday to tens of thousands of mourners, who angrily blamed the Damascus government and its ally Hezbollah for the latest political killing in Lebanon.

The crowd lined the streets or marched behind the coffins of Walid Eido, his 35-year-old son, Khaled, and one of his bodyguards, escorting the caskets to a mosque next to a cemetery in West Beirut.

Ten people were killed Wednesday by the bomb, which ripped through Walid Eido's car as he drove from a seaside sports club. In addition to his son and two bodyguards, six passers by also died, including two of Lebanon's national soccer players. Eleven people were wounded.

During the procession, Koranic verses rang out from a mosque as car loudspeakers blared: "Today is the funeral for a new martyr killed at the hands of Bashar Assad," the Syrian president.

Walid Eido was a close friend of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister who was similarly assassinated in a Beirut car bombing in 2005. He also was a political ally of Hariri's son, Saad, who leads the anti-Syrian majority in the Lebanese Parliament.

The blast was a further blow to the stability of this small Mediterranean nation that has been mired in a political power struggle between the government and the Hezbollah-led opposition. Heightening tensions, the Lebanese Army has also been locked in a 26-day battle against Al Qaeda-inspired militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon where scores of people have been killed.

Walid Eido's killing came three days after the US-backed government, together with the United Nations, started assembling an international tribunal ordered by the UN Security Council to try suspects in Hariri's killing. Walid Eido was a prominent supporter of the tribunal, which Syria and Hezbollah strongly oppose.

Many in Lebanon blame Syria for Hariri's death, but Syria denies any involvement in that killing or the latest assassination.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement provided to the Associated Press said Syria deplored the "deception and campaign of lies" by some Lebanese politicians against Syria every time a crime is committed in Lebanon.

Syria controlled Lebanon for 29 years until it was forced out after Hariri's assassination, and its Lebanese opponents believe it is seeking to regain domination by plunging the country into chaos.

At the funeral, Saad Hariri said Lebanon will not kneel before the killers and promised they will be brought to justice. But none of the previous six assassinations of anti-Syrian figures have been solved.

The funeral procession passed through the Sunni neighborhood of Tarik Jadideh in West Beirut, where posters of Walid Eido and his slain son lined the streets.

Mourners also directed their wrath at Hezbollah, a Shi'ite militant group. Hezbollah called the assassination part of a "cycle of roaming terrorism targeting Lebanon and its stability" and urged national unity to confront it. Some Hezbollah legislators were among those offering condolences to Saad Hariri after the funeral.