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

kalahari.com

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:    al-qaeda  |  is  |  hezbollah  |  isil  |  bashar assad  |  lebanon  |  syria  |  syria conflict
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com 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
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Music

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Management Accountant

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town Finance
R330 000 - R336 000 Per Year

Personal Assistant

Cape Town CBD
Mpumalanga Personnel & Training Consultants

Digital Designer

Western Cape
Quantum Recruitment

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. 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

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The quest for understanding has reached a new intense emotional level. The more tempestuous your emotions are, the bigger the...read more

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

Hello 

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 24.com network.

Settings

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.