News / Middle East

New ISIL Emir Could Be Troublesome for Lebanon

Lebanese army soldiers are deployed on the edge of the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut, after clashes June 30, 2014.
Lebanese army soldiers are deployed on the edge of the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut, after clashes June 30, 2014.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the al-Qaida offshoot spearheading the militant Sunni insurgency in Iraq, has announced a new “emir,” or prince, in Lebanon, a country analysts say could be a major target of the jihadist group as it seeks to expand its power across the region.

He is Abdel Salam al-Ordoni, a Palestinian who lived for many years in refugee camps in Lebanon.  Lebanese judicial officials say he has been highly active in Lebanon and is the man who gave the go-ahead for a recent attack on a restaurant in Beirut that left ten people wounded.

Last weekend, ISIL began calling itself the Islamic State, and in an online audio message revived the caliphate and named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the “leader for Muslims everywhere”.

Analysts say the announcement was partly timed to undercut the group’s jihadist rival al-Qaida, which disavowed al-Baghdadi last winter for refusing to heed the instructions of the terror group’s overall leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor.

“Put simply, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has declared war on al-Qaida,” says Charles Lister, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center.

The announcement underlines al-Baghdadi’s wide aspirations in the region and his ambition to set up a jihadist state stretching from the Sunni-majority regions of Iraq, across eastern and northern Syria, to Lebanon.

According to Aaron Zelin, a Mideast scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a DC-based think tank, the upstart jihadist group is serious about pursing a governing strategy and forming an Islamic state in which “all residents of territory it takes over fall under the group’s sovereign will and must abide by its interpretations of God’s law.”

In a research paper published this week, Zelin writes that in the al-Baghdadi model state, “no competition or power sharing can be acceptable.”

Lebanon has seen an uptick in attacks culminating in three suicide bombings near the end of June.  The announcement of an IS leader in Lebanon only heightens the government’s concern. 

“The security situation is dangerous in light of what is happening in Iraq,” Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s speaker of parliament, told reporters at a conference.

A series of suicide bombings in Lebanon last year tailed off this winter – a possible result of a successful offensive by the Shiaa militant group Hezbollah and Syrian government forces in the mountainous al-Qalamoun—a rugged region that borders Lebanon.

Lebanese security forces say many of the car bombs that hit the country last year were rigged in al-Qalamoun and driven into Lebanon. Those attacks left more than 130 dead and more than 1,000 people injured.

IS appears to have signaled its intention to revive the bombing campaign in a bid to sow sectarian mayhem in Lebanon and to strike at its rival Hezbollah, which has been fighting in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.

“We tell the Party of Satan (Hezbollah) and its agent, the Lebanese army, that this is the first rain, and we tell you that there are hundreds of people seeking suicide, who love the blood of [Shia] rejectionists,” the jihadist group threatened in a statement.

Lebanese security forces have launched a crackdown on Sunni militants and say they have broken up half-a-dozen terror cells.  Prime Minister Tammam Salam insists the authorities can contain terror groups.

“There is no safe haven for terrorism in Lebanon, and the internal situation is under control.  It will not allow for such an environment to rise,” Salam is quoted as telling Al-Jazeera television.

But the IS challenge comes at a difficult time for Lebanon.  The country’s religious sects are deadlocked over who to appoint as a new President—a stalemate that is not helping to calm any domestic sectarian dispute. 

The increased jihadist activity has prompted new fears that Lebanon could be dragged back into another civil war.   The first war, which ended in 1990, lasted 15 years and left 120,000 dead and one in four Lebanese wounded.

Lebanon has managed a fragile peace since then, in which all of its main religious sects share power. But any movement of IS into Lebanon could reignite sectarian tensions.

Jihadist groups have been present in Lebanon for at least two decades.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq triggered rapid growth, especially among Palestinian refugees, hundreds of whom volunteered in the insurgency against America’s occupying forces.

Analysts fear that in naming Abdel Salam al-Ordoni as the new IS leader in Lebanon, Baghdadi aims to focus on refugee camps as fertile ground for new recruits.

Security sources who declined to be named for this article say jihadists are already actively recruiting in Palestinian refugee camps, especially in Ein el-Hilweh near Sidon, the largest of a dozen camps in Lebanon set up to house Palestinians who fled the 1948 Arab-Israeli war—and their descendants.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs