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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Uproar over Lebanon custody death
Ismail Mohammed al-Khatib in a family picture taken in Lebanon
Friends of Khatib say he was tortured to death
Thousands of people have protested in Lebanon over the death in custody of a man arrested for an alleged al-Qaeda plot to bomb foreign embassies.

Protesters in Majdal Anjar called for the interior minister to resign and for an enquiry into Ismail Khatib's death.

The authorities said he died of a heart attack on Monday.

When news of his death reached his home town last night hundreds of people carrying sticks and knives burned tyres and smashed windows.

The protesters accuse the security forces of torturing Mr Khatib to death after his arrest along with 10 other people last week.

We demand an inquiry to know the truth about the death of this young man
Majdal Anjar residents' statement
The family is refusing to receive the body from the authorities for burial to protest against the circumstances of his death.

Lebanese security officials say police have released Mr Khatib's two sisters to try to persuade the family to accept the body.

Latifa and Inam Khatib were detained a few days after the authorities announced the arrest.

European funding

Interior Minister Elias Murr said Mr Khatib was the head of al-Qaeda in Lebanon and had tried to recruit militants to fight for the militant Islamic movement in Iraq.

He said Mr Khatib's group had received funds from Europe and planned to send a vehicle packed with 300 kg (660 lbs) of explosives into the Italian embassy.

Majdal Anjar after riot
Majdal Anjar was engulfed in protests after the news spread
A statement distributed at the mosque in the name of Majdal Anjar residents said: "We demand an inquiry to know the truth about the death of this young man, but we want the medical examiner to be appointed by the family."

"We demand the resignation of the interior minister who is fully responsible and we demand the release of all other detainees," the statement said.

Demonstrators briefly blocked the highway linking Beirut and the nearby Syrian border during Monday night's protests.


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