Hezbollah chief urges backers to stop celebratory gunfire

Members of Lebanon's Shiite Amal militia shoot into the air in Shwayfat in the Druze mountains southeast of Beirut on May 11, 2008 (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro) (AFP)

Beirut (AFP) - The head of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement on Sunday urged supporters to refrain from the volleys of celebratory gunfire that they unleash during his periodic speeches.

"I urge you... to abstain categorically from shooting," Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said, asking the movement's officials to ensure the request was respected.

Speeches by top Lebanese political figures are often accompanied by celebratory gunfire from their supporters.

On Saturday, cracks and pops of gunfire rang out in Beirut as former prime minister Saad Hariri spoke at a ceremony marking 10 years since the assassination of his father, Rafik Hariri, another former prime minster.

But Nasrallah's speeches, usually delivered from a secret location and broadcast on Hezbollah's television station, tend to attract the most significant outpouring of fire.

The Hezbollah chief has raised the issue before, asking supporters during a speech to refrain from the fire, but to little effect.

Earlier this month, Lebanon's justice minister threatened to prosecute those responsible for an unusually sustained round of gunfire during a speech by Nasrallah on a flare-up of violence between Hezbollah and its arch-enemy Israel.