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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More