Foreign Policy Blogs

Blast Hits Lebanon… Possible Link to al Qaeda in Iraq

A presumed car bomb detonated in Tripoli, Lebanon today killing at least 4 and injuring over 30. The attack, similar to those of August 13, targeted Lebanese soldiers as they traveled on a bus towards Beirut.

The blast occurred in the Bahsas region, where local officials claim the bomb was concealed in a parked car and remotely detonated as the bus rode by. “Once again the hand of treachery targets the military … in a terrorist attack,” said one Military statement. Two months prior, a similar attack killed 18 civilians and security personnel.

The attacks highlight a growing trend of sectarian violence which has peaked around the troubled nation. Government troops, Sunni supporters, the Alewite Shi'ite sect, and even the Palestinian Fatah organization have all taken part in this ongoing struggle.

The situation is growing worse, as the northern regions of Lebanon have become a breeding ground for new fundamentalist organizations. Paradoxically, Lebanon's efforts to confront Hezbollah have directly increased this terrorist violence. In creating militias to combat the Shi'ite hezbolla organization, the government has undergone a massive Sunni recruitment scheme, one that has directly led to the infiltration of security forces by Salafist extremists.

“The problem was the 14th March [pro-government alliance] tried to create a militia to stand up against Hezbollah but in fact they have eased the way for these probably Sunni terrorists to infiltrate the country," says one Professor.

All of this violence comes amidst the backdrop of a tentative peace agreement between Sunni fighters loyal to the Lebanese government, and Syrian-sponsored gunmen. Possibly to avoid blame, Syrian authorities are reporting that the car and explosives had potentially originated in Iraq. Whether or not true for this particular incident, it is quite likely that, as a result of the vastly improving security measures taking place around Baghdad, foreign fighters and extremists are beginning to vacate Iraq in search of other potential targets.

The Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) has reported that as coalition forces damage and disrupt Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), members and cells within the organization have begun to "bleed out' to other terror networks around Lebanon and Saudi Arabia:

"Some AQI fighters that have already trickled out of Iraq have bolstered violent movements in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. This trend will likely continue. Although the threat to Europe and North America is real‚ French officials have tracked 24 fighters from France that have traveled to Iraq‚ fighters are most likely to join established Jihadi groups in areas of weak government control, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lebanon."

If these claims turn out to be true, and the car bomb / bombers indeed originated in Iraq, it will present a completely new dimension to the current crisis. Prior to increased security and the troop "surge', Iraq has acted as a vacuum for Islamic fundamentalists across the region. Should this vacuum turn off, or indeed reverse, it could pose a devastating challenge to Muslim regimes across the greater Middle East.

 

Author

Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;

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