Jamil, a Lebanese Catholic fighter, poses with his weapon while resting inside a safe-house on the outskirts of Arsal September 1, 2014. REUTERS/Alia Haju
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In the dark of night a group of around 10 armed men donning military fatigues and carrying Kalashnikovs gathered at a house near the edge of Ras Baalbek, close to where Islamist militants have tried to infiltrate the town on a few occasions.Ras Baalbek is a Greek Catholic town in Lebanon's northeast with a population of 15,000 people. A set of mountains is all that separates the town from Arsal, where the Lebanese Army has been at battle with Islamist militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS. And while the town has warmly welcomed 1,300 Syrian refugees, the local population fears the presence of terrorist sleeper cells hiding among the throngs of refugees. "These terrorists are taking advantage of refugees by having sleeper cells in camps," a military intelligence source told The Daily Star in Ras Baalbek. While expressing sympathy for the hardship faced by so many refugees, he emphasized the all-too-real existential threat the town faces from these alleged sleeper cells. Semaan said that the mountains behind Ras Baalbek are currently inhabited by thousands of gunmen.While the armed patrol puts residents like Semaan slightly more at ease, a palpable worry still hangs over the town.
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