Gunman Shoots 9 People Dead in Lebanese Mountain Village

BEIRUT (AP) -

A gunman shot dead nine people Tuesday, including five Syrians, and left their bodies in several locations in a mountain village southeast of the capital of Beirut, the prime minister and state news said.

A motive for the killings was not immediately known, said the state-run National News Agency. It said the shooter fled to nearby fields and was being chased by security forces.

Such shootings in Lebanon, where many people keep rifles or pistols in their homes, are rare. Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees and other Syrians who are residents.

NNA said a pump action rifle and a Kalashnikov assault rifle were used in the shootings.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab “denounced the horrific crime,” his office said in a statement. The prime minister called on security agencies and judicial authorities to accelerate the investigation to disclose its circumstances and identify the perpetrators.

The dead included five Syrians and four Lebanese whose bodies were left behind at several locations in Baakline, local LBC TV reported.

“It is similar to the shootings that happen in America,” Marwan Hamadeh, a member of parliament from Baakline, told reporters in Beirut. He urged security forces to detain the shooter, saying “there are some indications that he might be a mentally unstable person.”

Baakline’s mayor, Abdullah al-Ghoseini, told the daily An-Nahar newspaper that the motive behind the shooting was unclear, adding that it took place in an area that includes housing units for Syrian workers.

Al-Ghoseini later told LBC the shooting started at 3:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. ET) and search operations for the shooter were still ongoing five hours later. He added that the Syrians who were killed had been living in the village for nearly 10 years.

The shooting comes as Lebanon experiences its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. A crash in the value of the local currency against the U.S. dollar has led to a sharp increase in prices.

Anti-government protests resumed Tuesday calling on the Cabinet to work on improving living conditions in the nearly bankrupt country.