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 Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.