Lebanon News

Nusra urges Sunnis to avoid Hezbollah areas

People gather at the site of an explosion in Haret Hreik, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: The Nusra Front in Lebanon warned Sunnis to avoid “Hezbollah areas” as the Army interrogated a Lebanese suspect linked to the recent wave of bombings that rocked Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel.

“The Nusra Front in Lebanon announces that all the strongholds, headquarters and military and security bases of Iran’s party [Hezbollah] are targets, regardless of their location,” the Nusra Front in Lebanon said in a statement posted on its Twitter account.

“Hezbollah deliberately spreads itself out in populated areas to protect itself from the blows of jihadists and as we are keen to preserve the blood of our Sunni people in Lebanon ... we call on Sunnis in Lebanon not to approach or reside in its [Hezbollah’s] areas or come near its [the party’s] headquarters and gathering places,” the radical group said.

“Sunnis, help your sons the jihadists in their war against Iran’s party and its agents,” it added.

The Lebanon branch of the Nusra Front claimed responsibility for several attacks in the country, including Tuesday’s deadly bombing in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik which killed five people and wounded scores more.

The group, an offshoot of Syria’s Nusra Front, blacklisted by the United States as a terrorist group, warned of more attacks until Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Syria.

In May 2013, Hezbollah acknowledged it was fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to end the Syrian leader’s decadelong reign.

Hezbollah says its involvement in Syria serves to protect Lebanon from extremist groups. But critics, mainly the March 14 coalition, argue the intervention has only prompted Hezbollah’s opponents to retaliate on Lebanese soil.

The Nusra Front in Lebanon also said earlier that it supported the suicide bombing that rocked the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel on Jan. 16, killing six people.

On Jan. 2, a suicide attack occurred in the same area in Haret Hreik. Rigged cars also exploded in the Beirut southern suburbs of Ruweiss and Bir al-Abed last year.

Separately, the Army continued interrogating Sheikh Omar Atrash, from the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal. He was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of involvement in the car bomb attacks in the Beirut southern suburbs and Hermel.

Sources told The Daily Star that Atrash, in his early 20s, was a member of al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and a student of religious studies.

Atrash, who is not well-known in Arsal, lives in the Bekaa Valley area of Masharih al-Qaa, the sources said.

Atrash is the cousin of Omar Atrash, who was killed in October after a rocket hit his vehicle somewhere in the narrow valley that separates the mountainous area of Arsal and the Syrian frontier.

Local media reported that the deceased Atrash was allegedly involved in the Bir al-Abed and Ruwaiss bomb attacks. Atrash is also suspected of planning two rocket attacks last May that wounded four people in the Beirut southern suburb of Shiyah.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 25, 2014, on page 2.




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