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Was Al-Qaeda Behind Beirut Bombing?

ICC Note

“We got the message but we will carry on our mission in protecting Lebanon ,”

By NICHOLAS BLANFORD

Fri Jan 25 Lebanon (Yahoo! News)-As a top Lebanese police investigator into a spate of bomb attacks as well as the activities of al-Qaeda-inspired groups in the country, Captain Wissam Eid had no shortage of potential enemies. One of those foes got to Eid Friday morning, killing him and at least three other people in a powerful car bomb explosion, nearly identical to the attacks he had been investigating.

“We got the message but we will carry on our mission in protecting Lebanon ,” said Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, the head of Lebanon ‘s paramilitary Internal Security Forces, at the scene of the attack. The 31-year-old Eid ran the technical department of the ISF’s intelligence branch and was a communications specialist.

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At the end of December, Osama bin Laden described the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon as “Crusaders” sent to Lebanon “to protect the Jews” of Israel . On January 7, another taped message was aired on a jihadist website purportedly from Shaker al-Absi, the fugitive leader of the al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group, which waged a bloody three month battle against the Lebanese army last summer. In the 58-minute message, Absi threatened attacks against the Lebanese army. “The mill of war has started to grind … between the infidels and the believers,” he said.

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“Bin Laden’s statement seems to have heralded an al-Qaeda resurgence here,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut . “There is a logical correlation between these recent [bomb] incidents and this latest one [Eid’s assassination] related to al-Qaeda activity.”

But other analysts and commentators suspect Syria is to blame, arguing that Eid’s murder fits the pattern of past professionally-conducted car bomb assassinations in which Syrian involvement was strongly suspected. Writing in the anti-Syrian Al-Mustaqbal newspaper last week, columnist Fadi Shamieh said that recent attacks in Lebanon suggest a convergence of interests between Syria and some Sunni jihadists operating in Lebanon . “Even if there are no ideological links between these two sides, both are diligently working to create trouble as soon as possible which would serve the interest of the extremists … [and] the objectives of hostile intelligence service,” he wrote.

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