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Middle East

Al-Qaeda-linked groups expand into Lebanon

Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL say they have set up in Lebanon, with Jabhat vowing to confront the Shia group, Hezbollah.

Last updated: 26 Jan 2014 10:46
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Jabhat al-Nusra are the affiliate branch of al-Qaeda fighting in Syria. [AP]

Two Sunni group with links to al-Qaeda fighting in Syria have announced their presence in Lebanon, with one saying all strongholds of the Shia group Hezbollah are "legitimate targets" for attack.

Jabhat al-Nusra in Lebanon - an affiliate of al-Qaeda's branch in Syria - said in a statement on Sunday that "Iran's party [Hezbollah] and all its bases and... bastions are legitimate targets for us, wherever they are."

The group warned Sunnis against "approaching or residing in or near [Hezbollah's] bases, and avoid gathering around its meeting points."

That declaration followed a recording on Saturday by a previously unknown figure who announced the creation of a Lebanese arm of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is fighting in Syria and Iraq.

In the recording, Abu Sayyaf al-Ansari swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi leader of ISIL, which has its roots in the group that called itself al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"We pledge allegiance to the prince of the believers, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi... and we ask him to guide us past the obstacles, and make us your spearhead in crushing your enemy, and not a single man among us will hold back in helping you," said Ansari, in a translated report provided by the AFP news agency.

Previous attacks

The statements come three days after Jabhat said it carried out a car bomb attack in Beirut's southern suburbs that killed four people. It also earlier said it carried out a deadly car bomb attack in the heart of Hermel town in eastern Lebanon, which killed three people.

It was the sixth in a string if attacks targeting Lebanese areas dominated by Hezbollah since the Shia group sent fighters into neighbouring Syria to support the troops of President Bashar al-Assad against rebel forces.

In response to the ISIL statement, the former prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, said that the country's Sunnis refused to be a part of any conflict between al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, and denounced sectarian attacks on civilians.

"Every sane and patriotic Lebanese, of any sect, will refuse to be dragged behind these calls, as he refuses Hezbollah's war in Syria," Hariri said.

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