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

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis Rally Against Racism

PM Netanyahu says he will meet Damas Pakada, the Ethiopia-born Israeli soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen More

Ten Migrants Drown in Mediterranean, 4,800 Rescued

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudis Using US Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs