News / Middle East

Lebanon's Militant Sunni Sheiks Support Uprising

Lebanese army soldiers sit on top of a military truck as reinforcements arrive to the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2014.
Lebanese army soldiers sit on top of a military truck as reinforcements arrive to the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2014.

Clashes are becoming more frequent between the Lebanese army and Syrian insurgents - including jihadists - along the Lebanon-Syria border.

This past weekend, Syrian rebels attacked the border town of Arsal, killing 11 Lebanese soldiers the fighting. Forty rebels also were killed.

Despite the risk that the fighting will drag Lebanon fully into the mayhem of Syria's sectarian civil war, the country's militant Sunni sheikhs said they sympathize with jihadists in Iraq and Syria, including those fighting with al-Qaida-affilated groups.

Sheikh Mohammed Gamil Nizah is a leading Sunni cleric in Lebanon's northern town of Tripoli, where local Sunnis have clashed frequently with the army and Shi'ite Muslims.

Arsal, LebanonArsal, Lebanon
x
Arsal, Lebanon
Arsal, Lebanon

He said because of repression by the Shi'ite-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the tyranny of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, the Sunnis in those countries decided to rise up.

He warned the same will happen soon in Lebanon.

Fears arrest

The sheikh, a 46-year-old father of six, said he is nervous he is going to be arrested by Lebanese authorities for his outspokenness.

During the interview with VOA, his supporters glanced at a bank of closed-circuit television screens broadcasting images from outside his mosque, alert for a security raid.

Last month, another prominent Salafist cleric was arrested in Tripoli.

Lebanese security officials claim there are growing links between Sunni agitators and foreign jihadists, who have been behind more than a dozen suicide bombs on Shi'ite strongholds in Lebanon in the past year.

Asked whether he supports jihadist groups such as al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra or the breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, which has been leading the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the sheikh chooses his words carefully.

He said he disagrees with some of the extreme behavior of the jihadists but that Sunnis in Tripoli support the Islamic revolutions in Syria and Iraq, arguing they have managed to break the Shi'ite crescent across the Mideast.

Battling rebels

Lebanese security forces are working to contain violent sectarianism in Lebanon. And for weeks have been combating an estimated 3,000 Syrian rebels holed up along remote parts of the border near the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal.

After the fierce weekend fighting in which 15 Lebanese soldiers were taken hostage, security officials said they are determined to win the battle in the next 48 hours. However, they insist they are not working in cooperation with Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shia movement whose fighters are battling Syrian rebels on the other side of the border.

On Tripoli's main shopping streets there is skepticism that the army and Hezbollah are not working together. Locals blame the domineering behavior of Hezbollah for much of the growing anger of Sunnis.

Azzam, a storeowner, said people are angry that the army arrests Sunni militants but does nothing against Hezbollah. There is no balance and Sunnis are being discriminated against, he said.

The army said it won't be deterred by threats of revolution.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Hawas from: Lebanon
August 04, 2014 12:49 PM
hey VOA, "Lebanese security forces are working to contain violent sectarianism in Lebanon..." - who writes this drivel for you..??

Listen VOA, Lebanese "security forces" are Hezbullah..!!! Hezbullah is an Iranian terrorist organization that consumed Lebanon from within like cancer !! they murder torture and rape us - Christians, Sunnis, Druz,
In Response

by: Derkanu from: islamabad
August 05, 2014 12:16 AM
Hizabullah a patraitic militia is a resisting wall against terrorists like israel and rest of the Takferi groups around them. what is the objection when US the world class terrorist is supporting the illegtimate state of zionisim in Israel. Does any one including yourself have courage to point out her support for the killer of innocent peopl on mass scale in Palestine. Shame on you all and curse of Almighty God till day after.

by: Hans from: Germany
August 04, 2014 12:36 PM
Look, Israel is a superlative military cutting edge technology machine... nobody denies or doubt this. Israel can destroy all the metastatic Islamic disease... al qaida, hizbula, nusra, pusra, tusra... but Lebanon can not... nor can Turkey (the prime instigator of the Islamic filth) nor can Qatar (another scumbag nation) nor Syria... nor Iraq... nor Saudi... nor Jordan... look at the Iranians - they are terrified...!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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