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Al-Qaeda Seen Expanding Influence in Lebanon

Salafist and jihadist groups, including those affiliated with al-Qaeda, appear to be deepening their roots within Lebanon, writes Nasser Chararah.
Syrian refugee children and men gesture, as they hold flags and wear headbands during a protest marking two years since the start of the uprising in the Wadi Khaled area, northern Lebanon March 15, 2013. The headbands and flags read  "There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is the messenger of Allah" . REUTERS/Roula Naeimeh (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR3F19U
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Waving al-Qaeda’s flag during protests and marches carried out by Salafists in Lebanon has become very common. Al-Qaeda’s flag was recently seen  flying in the center of Beirut when 2,000 Salafists gathered in the capital upon the call of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir to go to the streets. In one of Beirut’s neighborhoods [Tariq al Jadidah], which is the stronghold of the Sunni sect in the Lebanese capital, young masked men go occasionally to the streets waving al-Qaeda’s flag, as is the case  in the city of Tripoli [the capital of North Lebanon], which is currently dominated by the Salafist movement.

In light of the current political situation, this phenomenon does not bode well for Lebanon. Al-Qaeda’s presence has become prominent on the Lebanese arena to the extent that it has become part of its normal political and partisan life. At the security level, it is believed that the Syrian crisis has been spilling over into some areas of Lebanon, as clashes in the Damascus countryside and Homs are reflected in some of the towns on Lebanon’s northern and eastern border.

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