Syria conflict may spill over into Lebanon

2014-02-06 15:09
Lebanese extinguish a minibus in fire at the site of an explosion in Choueifat, south of the capital Beirut. (File, AFP)

Lebanese extinguish a minibus in fire at the site of an explosion in Choueifat, south of the capital Beirut. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beirut - A string of recent bombings in Lebanon, many of them suicide attacks, has raised fears of a home-grown jihadist threat driven by the Syrian civil war across the border.

Since July, a series of ten bomb blasts have hit Lebanon, six of them involving suicide bombers.

The attacks have been claimed by various jihadist groups, some of them linked to organisations fighting across the border in Syria, including al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

The groups say they are targeting Lebanon's Shi’ite Hezbollah movement for fighting in Syria alongside the government.

A Lebanese military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the growth of jihadist groups was an inevitable result of the Syrian conflict.

"We were expecting it would spread here. If your neighbour's house is on fire, it's no surprise if your house catches on fire too," he told AFP.

"Terrorism has begun, regardless of the reasons and causes," he said.

The source said the different names of the groups meant little on the ground.

"Their ideology is the ideology of al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda's ideology is known for not accepting the other. All of these groups... feed on this ideology," he said.

‘Wary of extremism’

Lebanon is no stranger to violence, with a 1975-1990 civil war that included a spate of bomb attacks against Western embassies and military targets, some carried out by suicide bombers from the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement.

Now the tactic has returned to haunt the group, as it has been adopted by Sunni militants bitterly opposed to Hezbollah's decision to fight alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad against a Sunni-led rebellion.

"For the al-Qaeda jihadists, Lebanon provided their logistical needs for Syria. Once they became more powerful and had a supportive environment, they turned the country into a land of jihad," the military source said.

Neighbourhoods considered Hezbollah strongholds have been bombed multiple times, with scores of civilians killed, and in August 2013 a double attack hit the Sunni town of Tripoli.

In an echo of the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, an anti-Syrian political figure was killed in a bombing in downtown Beirut in December.

"Lebanon has witnessed an alarming increase in jihadi activities in recent months," said Rafael Lefevre, a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Centre.

"The turning point came last April when Hezbollah recognised [publicly] that it was sending fighters to help the Syrian regime crush the rebels."

He said Lebanon was not yet a major jihadist base, in part because its unique religious diversity "makes the overwhelming majority of its population wary of extremism".

‘Sporadic jihadi attacks’

But the country is attractive to jihadists "because the state security apparatus is relatively weak, which enables groups to carry out a range of underground activities".

And he said there was potential recruiting ground in Lebanon because of the "growing number of people disaffected with the Lebanese state, especially in the poverty belts of major urban areas".

The assessment is born out by reports that jihadist groups are particularly active in the impoverished parts of northern Tripoli as well as the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp.

On 25 January, a previously unknown figure by the name of Abu Sayyaf al-Ansari announced the formation of the Lebanese branch of Isil, which is fighting in Syria.

He said the announcement was made from Tripoli, which is already the scene of regular clashes between Sunni residents of the Bab al-Tebbaneh district and Alawite residents of neighbouring Jabal Mohsen, who share the same Shi’ite offshoot faith of Assad.

Local sources say Abu Sayyaf is unknown to security services, religious figures or Salafist groups in Tripoli, but the military source acknowledged a growing jihadist presence there.

"There are reports of al-Qaeda supporters and recently of the formation of Isil in the city involving Lebanese, Syrians and some Palestinians from the camps, but so far these groups have no bases or organisational structures," he said.

Ties between Lebanese citizens and groups fighting the Syrian government already exist, with a unknown number of Sunni Lebanese crossing the border to fight alongside rebel groups.

The military source said al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's official branch in Syria, had been present in Lebanon since the beginning of the conflict.

And he confirmed that the so-called al-Nusra Front in Lebanon was linked to its Syrian counterpart.

Lefevre warned that "sporadic jihadi attacks in Lebanon will continue until a settlement between regime and opposition is found in Syria which will facilitate Hezbollah's withdrawal".

But the military source warned that even an end to the conflict in Syria would be unlikely to halt jihadism in Lebanon, calling it "an issue that will take years".

Read more on:    hezbollah  |  al-qaeda  |  isil  |  bashar assad  |  lebanon  |  syria  |  syria conflict

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

  • Wednesday Delft - 20:37 PM
    Road name: R300 Southbound
    ROADWORKS - left lane closed at Hindle Road
  • Wednesday Sir Lowry's Pass - 17:57 PM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router The B683 wireless gateway (hereinafter...

From R1671.00

I'm shopping for:


You may find yourself fascinated by something which could draw you in to obsessively exploring this subject in more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.