News / Middle East

Jihadists in Lebanon Target Shiites

Lebanese army soliders stand guard near damages after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a passenger van in the Choueifat district in southern Beirut, Feb. 3, 2014
Lebanese army soliders stand guard near damages after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a passenger van in the Choueifat district in southern Beirut, Feb. 3, 2014
Jihadist groups in Lebanon are coordinating a bombing campaign against Shiite Muslim neighborhoods in Lebanon and fanning the flames of sectarian hatred, say Lebanese security sources.
 
Cooperation extends to transportation and logistics, according to Lebanese army sources, and factions are coordinating suicide bombings carried out in Lebanon – there have been a dozen in the past seven months—trading bomb-makers and smugglers as well as sharing intelligence.
 
The biggest public expression of jihadist coordination came when three separate jihadist groups issued in mid-January explanations justifying their waging war in Lebanon.
 
One of the groups, the Lebanese wing of Jabhat al-Nusra, urged in its online statement Lebanese Sunni Muslims to avoid Shiite neighborhoods because more bombings are on the way.

Syria war spillover
 
The group says the series of suicide bombings that have struck Beirut and other towns in Lebanon are in retribution for Hezbollah, Lebanon’s militant Shiite movement, sending fighters to assist President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war raging next-door in Syria.
 
“The statements appeared to have been coordinated and timed to go out the same day to ensure maximum propaganda effect,” says a Lebanese military intelligence officer who declined to be named for this article.
 
The current spate of bombings on residential and shopping areas are outraging Shiite Muslims. The dozen bombings, the first came on July 9 in the mainly Shiite South Beirut, have killed 130 people and wounded more than 1,000, according to the Lebanese interior ministry.
 
The latest blast came on February 3 south of Beirut in Shoueifat. After that bombing, former civil war-era Lebanese president Amine Gemayel warned Lebanon was at risk of being engulfed in Iraq-style sectarian violence.

A change in tactics
 
Al-Nusra front claimed responsibility for the February 3 bombing. The attack marked a change in tactics. Most of the suicide blasts have involved suicide bombers using cars stolen in Lebanon and rigged with explosives, but the Feb. 3 blast was triggered by a lone bomber boarding a microbus and then detonating an explosives belt he was wearing.
 
Lebanese officials warn that jihadist bombers are likely to shift their tactics to try to penetrate Shiite districts. Hezbollah and the Lebanese army have redoubled security in Shiite neighborhoods. They suspect jihadist bombers will start using explosive-laden cars once again.
 
“There are approximately 550 cars that were stolen over the span of several months,” the country’s interior minister Marwan Charbel told a local television station recently. “The series of bombings will continue and the situation is very difficult.”
 
Hisham Jaber, a former top strategist for the army and onetime military governor of Beirut, argues that veterans from the Iraq insurgency and from the conflict in Syria are fueling the threat but that jihadists are being successful in recruiting among hard-line Lebanese Islamist groups in Lebanon.

“We have many cells,” he says.
 
According to Jaber, jihadists affiliated with al-Qaida started forming alliances several years ago with radical Sunni groups in Lebanon, infiltrating the country in a bid to recruit for the civil war in neighboring Syria. But now they seem determined on destabilizing Lebanon and using the country as a launch pad for global jihad.

A Palestinian connection
 
Much of that recruitment, security officials suspect, is happening in Palestinian refugee camps such as Ain al-Helweh outside Sidon. The camp’s population before the Syrian civil war was 80,000 but another 30,000 refugees from Syria have swelled it in the past three years, primarily Palestinian Syrians. 
 
The influx includes hardcore Islamists adding to radical elements that were in the camp before.
 
Palestinian officials deny any large-scale recruitment is taking place in Ain al-Helweh but the onetime head of the jihadist group Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Majid al-Majid, who was arrested in January and died in custody, lived in the camp until 2012. 
 
Security officials are also bracing for jihadists to start targeting the Lebanese army as well as Shiite neighborhoods.
 
Another foreign-led jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, known as ISIS, has telegraphed its intention of targeting the army as well, saying in an online statement that Lebanese security forces are fair game. The group has also warned it intends to strike at Israel from Lebanon.
 
Lebanese are becoming increasingly nervous by the threat of violence.  Recently in Sidon, a town south of Beirut, pedestrians mistook a thief who was fleeing toward a mosque for a suicide bomber and jumped for cover. Jittery guards at the mosque started firing.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid