Dozens mourn man who killed himself in busy Beirut district

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Dozens of people lay flowers on a main Beirut street where a man killed himself on Friday, with some blaming his death on the country’s economic collapse that has left more and more Lebanese hungry.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Reuters could not establish the motive for the apparent suicide.

The 61-year-old man shot himself in the head in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts store in the capital’s busy Hamra district, witnesses said.

Near his body was a Lebanese flag, a copy of his clean judicial record and a note in Arabic that read: “I’m not a heretic”. It was a quote from a popular song that continues with the words “but hunger is heresy”.

A relative of the man, who asked not to be named, accused the country’s rulers for the hardship that led to his death. “God damn them. People are suffocating.”

As he spoke, rescue workers carried the body away in a white coffin and a man mopped up a pool of blood.

Soaring prices and job losses have fuelled despair, and some aid groups have warned of the risk of mass hunger.

The country’s economic woes came to a head last year after capital inflows dried up and protests erupted against sectarian leaders in power since the 1975-1990 civil war.

“The people are hungry, broke, miserable,” said Lina Boubes in Hamra, where people chanted against the government and banks that have frozen people out of their savings.

“They took our dreams, our money, our bread,” she said. “And they sit in their castles and they still oppress us.”

The cabinet, which took office in January, has said it is doing all it can to tackle the crisis.

Reporting by Ellen Francis and Issam Abdallah; Editing by Mike Collett-White