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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid