The Times West Virginian

Headline News

January 5, 2014

Al-Qaida group claims responsibility for bombing

BEIRUT — An al-Qaida linked group claimed responsibility on Saturday for a suicide car bombing last week in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon, as its fighters fought other rebels in neighboring Syria in the most serious infighting since the uprising began.

It was the first time at the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for an attack in Lebanon, underscoring how the ever more complex Syrian war is increasingly spilling over into its smaller neighbor.

The group may have rushed to claim responsibility to try to divert attention from the infighting in Syria, said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on the country’s militant groups.

At least five people were killed in the Thursday attack that targeted a south Beirut neighborhood that is bastion of support for the Shiite group Hezbollah.

ISIL vowed more attacks.

It was “the first small payment of a heavy account which these criminal hypocrites should wait for,” it said in a statement, referring to Hezbollah. The statement was posted on a website used by Sunni militants.

The al-Qaida group sought to punish Hezbollah — and their ordinary Shiite Lebanese backers — for sending fighters to Syria to shore up forces of the Syrian president Bashar Assad, who is trying to quell an armed uprising against his rule.

The bombing was the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months. The violence has targeted both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, further stoking sectarian tensions that are already running high as each community in Lebanon lines up with its brethren in Syria on opposing sides of the war.

It also reflected how Lebanese are turning on each other. On Saturday, Lebanese authorities confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber, the state news agency reported. Local media identified him as a Lebanese citizen from a northern border town with Syria.

Thursday’s bombing came a week after a car bombing in Beirut killed prominent Sunni politician Mohammed Chatah. The top aide to ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri was critical of Assad and his Hezbollah allies.

In November, suicide bombers targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing over 20 people. Iran is the chief patron of Hezbollah and an ally of Syria, and the Islamic Republic’s embassy is located in an upscale Shiite district.

Another blast in August killed around 20 people in the Beir al-Abed district, near the Haret Hreik neighborhood where Thursday’s bombing took place.

Two weeks later, a double bombing outside two Sunni mosques in the northern city of Tripoli killed scores more.

The tensions in Lebanon reflect the increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian war, where hardline Sunni rebels dominating rebel groups have shown little tolerance for Syria’s patchwork of minorities.

In response, Syrian minorities have rallied behind Assad or remained neutral, fearing for their future should Sunni extremists come to power.

ISIL is one of the strongest rebel groups in Syria.

It emerged from the Sunni heartland of neighboring Iraq, where it has also targeted Shiites with car bombs, sending the country to the brink of civil war.

Its fighters have fanned into Syria, taking advantage of the upheaval to assert power in areas seized by rebels. It has imposed its strict version of Islamic law, kidnapped and killed journalists, Syrian anti-Assad activists and others critical of their rule.

Tensions between ISIL and other rebel brigades have simmered for months. They erupted Friday after residents in rebel-held areas came out to demonstrate against the al-Qaida linked group, accusing them of killing a man who was trying to mediate between the groups, said the U.K.-based al-Tamimi, who closely follows Syrian militant groups.

Fighting between ISIL and other anti-Assad rebel groups quickly spread through the northern province of Aleppo, the northeast province of Idlib and parts of the central province of Hama, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based group said it believed tens of fighters had been killed.

By Saturday evening, the ISIL said in a video it would withdraw fighters from strategic strongholds that have defended rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo against Assad forces if rebel attacks against it continued.

“They have stabbed us in the back and turned people against us,” intoned a voice over the black-and-white symbol of ISIL on a video uploaded onto YouTube. The footage corresponded with The Associated Press’ reporting of events.

“We ask the people of Aleppo to take this seriously, because any withdrawal of ISIL from any of these areas means that liberated Aleppo will be assaulted.”

In other rebel-held parts of Syria, ISIL fighters cooperate with rebel brigades, said al-Tamimi. He said it wasn’t clear if the fighting would spread, and noted that the rebels fighting ISIL belonged to rival brigades, with little to unite them, save for their hatred of the al-Qaida group.

Still, the fighting had embarrassed the group, he said.

He said it was likely they claimed responsibility for Thursday’s bombing to try to refocus attention on their achievements: punishing Hezbollah and Shiites.

“It’s more of a public relations thing,” he said. “Like — we have been able to strike Lebanon, we are the leading force.”

The Western-backed coalition of Syrian opposition groups in exile welcomed the attacks on ISIL.

Monzer Akbik of the Syrian National Opposition group described the group as “the enemy of the revolution and an enemy of the people,” and called on the international community to support moderate fighters against the Assad regime.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Supreme Court: Michigan affirmative action ban OK

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • Court critical of law punishing campaign lies

    The Supreme Court appears to be highly skeptical of laws that try to police false statements during political campaigns, raising doubts about the viability of such laws in more than 15 states.

    April 23, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has ‘days, not weeks’ to follow by an international accord for Ukraine

    Russia has “days, not weeks” to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.

    April 22, 2014

  • U.S. weighing military exercises

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday. The exercises would follow Russia’s buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine and its annexation last month of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

    April 21, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • Governor: Closing Boston amid bomber hunt ‘tough’

    Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Gov. Deval Patrick received a call in the pre-dawn hours from a top aide telling him that police officers outside the city had just engaged in a ferocious gun battle with the two men suspected of setting the bombs and that one was dead and the other had fled.

    April 20, 2014

  • Everest avalanche reminder of risks Sherpas face

    The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.
    But they couldn’t get there quickly enough.

    April 20, 2014

  • Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 19, 2014

  • Everest avalanche kills at least 12

    An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving four missing in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak. Several more were injured.

    April 19, 2014

  • Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

    Pro-Russian insurgents defiantly refused Friday to surrender their weapons or give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine, despite a diplomatic accord reached in Geneva and overtures from the government in Kiev.

    April 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads