News / Middle East

Christians, Other Religious Groups in Lebanon Fear ISIL Attacks

Lebanon's Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Beirut, July 9, 2014.
Lebanon's Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Beirut, July 9, 2014.

Lebanese security agencies controlled by rival religious sects are coordinating more closely than at any time since the end of the country’s long-running civil war as concerns of further jihadist bomb attacks mount.

In a Thursday interview with Reuters, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said the “danger of bombings is still there” despite recent security successes in identifying jihadists planning attacks and the recent arrests of seven of them.

The interior minister said events in Iraq, where jihadists have been spearheading a widespread Sunni Muslim insurgency, have exacerbated the threat of sectarian conflict in Lebanon and emboldened like-minded militants.

“We must admit that what has happened in Iraq has caused great excitement among these groups that believe they can benefit from the Iraqi experience,” Machnouk said. “They think they can carry out similar operations in Lebanon.”

The interior minister confirmed that the Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida splinter group fighting in Iraq and Syria, now has a presence in Lebanon.

Fears have mounted that the radical ISIL militants, who last month declared a caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq, may seek to turn Lebanon into a third front in a bid to put pressure on Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite movement, to withdraw fighters from Syria. Hezbollah forces have been a key component in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's gains against the insurgency.

ISIL is just one of several militant Sunni groups operating in Lebanon. Al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is also present, say security officials. Sunni militants have mounted more than a dozen bomb attacks in Lebanon in the past year, mainly targeting Hezbollah strongholds. Their attacks, which tapered off in the winter, are spiking again.

Local attacks

In recent weeks Lebanon witnessed a spate of suicide bombings, including one at a police checkpoint on the Beirut-Damascus highway in which a policeman was killed and 33 people wounded. The target appears to have been Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's general security agency, whose convoy was roughly 200 meters from the blast.

A separate suicide bombing struck a busy, predominantly Shi'ite suburb, and on 26 June a suicide bomber blew himself up in a four-star Beirut hotel as security personnel prepared to storm his room.

According to intelligence documents leaked to Ad-Diyar, jihadists have been attempting to recruit members from Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps and establish a base at the Ain al-Hilweh camp in Sidon, in the country's south.

VOA reported last week that Lebanon’s security chiefs were becoming anxious about the heightened level of jihadist activity in the dozen camps housing 400,000 Palestinians. The camps were set up for Palestinian refugees fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Although the camps are self-policing, Palestinian officials who declined to be named for this article say Lebanese security forces have secretly deployed elite units within the camps. The elite units, the Palestinian officials say, are operating with the endorsement of Palestinian camp chiefs.

One of the reasons for the Lebanese army’s fears over Ain Helweh and the other Palestinian camps is that they have played prominent roles in the history of violence in Lebanon, having been used in the past by extremist groups. In 2007 the camp at Nahr al-Bared was taken over by the Islamist Fatah al-Islam, triggering a three-month-long siege by the Lebanese army in the most severe internal fighting in Lebanon since the country’s 1975–1990 civil war.

Lebanon’s Christian leaders are also increasingly worried that jihadists will expand their targets to include Maronite Christians in order to sow more sectarian turmoil. A recent series of threats against Christians issued by an obscure Sunni militant group known as the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigades, in the Beqaa Valley, has added to Christian apprehension.

In one Tweet, the self-styled Baalbek Brigades said “a special group from the free mujahedeen was assigned to free the Islamic emirate of the Beqaa in specific and Lebanon in general from the churches of the polytheists.”

“This group will work on targeting the crusaders... in order to stop the bells of the polytheists’ churches from ringing,” said another Tweet.

Lebanese security chiefs have sought to allay Christian fears, arguing the Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigades is a fake group. But Wadi Al-Khazen, head of Lebanon’s Central Council of Maronite Societies, remains concerned about sectarian violence directed against Christians and has called on Arab governments for protection.

And the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Zahleh and Ferzul, Issam John Darwish, said in a statement the responsibility for the protection of Christians in Lebanon “falls on Muslims in general and Sunnis in particular.”

The Lebanese state news agency reported Monday that 21 jihadists have been charged in absentia with planning attacks.

The high level of coordination between Lebanon’s security agencies stands in contrast to the political deadlock over selecting a new president for the country. After a new government was formed this winter, thanks to behind-the-scenes talks between major regional players Saudi Arabia and Iran, agreement over picking a head of state to succeed retired Gen. Michel Sleiman, whose term ended in May, has proven elusive.

Under Lebanon’s power-sharing order the head of state has to be a Christian.

 

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
July 13, 2014 12:04 PM
MY OPINION? ... the world should ask the US, EU, and NATO countries, why they continue to supply all the weapons to the Jihadists to commit all these atrocities on innocents?
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
July 13, 2014 7:35 PM
Xaaji. Gringo has not made ISIL. Islam made them. Islam made Osama bin laden. Islam Made shaab in Somalia . Ask who give them money and ideology. Who make ISIL act such as barbaric by killing people or cut a person into pieces. it happen in Somali . it is barbaric behavior .they got it form barbaric ideology
In Response

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
July 13, 2014 3:02 PM
Gringos should not be worried about Arab Muslims killing Arab Muslims or Arab Christians slaughtering Arab Muslims or vice verse.
Supplying sophisticated weapons to so called Jihadists by the West is that US wants the Middle East to become a permanent never-ending world's super killing field. The really Western conspiracy here is .....well, you figure out, you know what I'm saying, Gringo,?

by: meanbill from: USA
July 13, 2014 12:00 PM
IF ONLY? ... The Russians warned the US, EU, and NATO countries, (that they were inflaming sectarian violence), by supplying all those weapons to the Sunni Muslims armed and trained in Jordan and Turkey, to wage war on the Shia Muslim led Syrian government, and now in Iraq, and now spreading to the surrounding countries.... The Russians warned them, but like always the US, EU, and NATO countries didn't listen, and the whole Islamic world, is now suffering from it.....

by: Ali Baba from: new york
July 13, 2014 11:20 AM
ISIL in Syria, Iraq and now in Lebanon. it is a virus that will spread very fast

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs