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Hezbollah to bury slain commander, Israel on alert

Beirut, February 14, 2008

Lebanon's Hezbollah holds a mass funeral for its assassinated commander Imad Moughniyah, one of the United States' most wanted men, in Beirut on Thursday amid calls for revenge against its sworn enemy Israel.

The Jewish state put its embassies and other interests abroad on high alert and boosted troop deployments on the Lebanese border for fear of reprisal.

Hezbollah and its main backer Iran accused Israel of killing Moughniyah in a bomb blast in Syria on Tuesday. The Israeli government rejected the charge, though its Mossad spy service had long sought to kill him.

Big crowds are expected in Beirut's Shi'ite Muslim southern suburb to bid farewell to Moughniyah, a guerrilla seen as a legend by Hezbollah but on the US most wanted list accused of killing hundreds in attacks on Israeli and Western targets.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is expected to attend the funeral.

Reflecting deep divisions in Lebanon, Moughniyah's funeral will take place shortly after a rally by the anti-Syrian ruling coalition to mark the third anniversary of the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Tens of thousands, many waving red, white and green Lebanese flags, began gathering in pouring rain at Martyrs' Square in the centre of Beirut to listen to speeches by anti-Syrian leaders, including Hariri's son and political heir, Saad.

The anti-Syrian coalition is locked in a 15-month power struggle with the Hezbollah-led opposition that has left Lebanon without a president since November.

Hariri's assassination on Feb.14, 2005, plunged Lebanon into its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war and led to the withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country.

Anti-Syrian politicians blame Damascus for Hariri's death. Syria denies any links.-Reuters




Tags: Hezbollah | Israel | Alert | slain | commander |

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