After Friday prayers some 300 protesters took to the streets to voice their opposition of a three day visit by Pope Benedict. As some of the demonstrators passed the US owned chain KFC, rocks were hurled through windows and the building was set on fire. The Huffington Post
reports bystanders began chanting "We don't want the pope" and "No more insults (to Islam)".
An adjacent Hardee's restaurant was also attacked and damaged.
In a separate protest Lebanese Security forces were forced to fire warning shots into the air to try and disperse the protesters who had marched from the Al-Mansouri Mosque and gathered in Nour Square.
After torching the American restaurant, the protesters regrouped and tried to storm the Prime Minister’s headquarters at the Grand Serail. RT.com
is reporting that gunshots were reported in the area. Lebanese officials have confirmed one person was killed and 25 were wounded as security forces and protesters clashed. Twelve security force officers were also wounded by stones thrown by protesters.
The renewed violence comes as Pope Benedict begins his three-day visit to Lebanon. Christians make up about 40 percent of the Lebanese population, the largest such contingent in the Arab world. When the Pope arrived at Beirut's airport he called
an oasis of “coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions.”
On Saturday the Pope called for a multi-faith Lebanon which can be a model of peace and religious coexistence for the Middle East. A Reuters
report quotes him as saying
"Lebanon is called, now more than ever, to be an example," and invited his audience "to testify with courage, in season and out of season, wherever you find yourselves, that God wants peace, that God entrusts peace to us".
Calls to KFC for reaction to the incident went unanswered. No official statement from the restaurant chain as been issued at this time.