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Radical sheikh still wields influence from Lebanese prison

A suspect in the failed Jan. 21 suicide attack on a Beirut coffee house has reportedly admitted to being a homegrown terrorist aligned with the Islamic State and a follower of Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir.
Sunni Muslim Salafist leader Ahmad al-Assir addresses his supporters during a protest against Hezbollah arms in Sidon, southern Lebanon, December 2, 2012. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3B4SV
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Conflicting portraits are emerging of Omar Assi, who police said attempted a suicide bombing Jan. 21 at a Beirut cafe. The young man is allegedly the second suicide attacker in recent years from the city of Saida.

The city, about 25 miles south of Beirut, was also home to Mouin Abou Dahr, who was behind the deadly November 2013 terror attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. Both men were followers of radical Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir. Assir is now in prison, but observers say he has a pool of followers in Saida, some of whom have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The Lebanese authorities say Assi confessed to being one of them.

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