Islamists Mounting Bomb Attacks on Christians in South Lebanon
NICOSIA -- Lebanon has ordered its security forces to prepare for a crackdown against Islamist insurgents who have targeted the Christian community in the south.
Officials said the government of Prime Minister Said Hariri has ordered the military and security forces to conduct a sweep through the Sidon region. They said Christians around the southern port city have come under steady attack from Islamists believed aligned with Al Qaida.
Sidon has a Palestinian refugee camp of Ein Hilwe, said to include a significant presence of Al Qaida supporters. Over the last two years, several bombings around Sidon have been traced to Ein Hilwe.
The Christian minority has been alarmed by the spate of recent attacks. In late June, a bomb was detonated in the Bekaa Valley town of Zahle during the visit by Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, a critic of the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah. The visit was the first by a Maronite patriarch to the Bekaa since 1938.
"The Internal Security Forces, by taking all measures, will do what is necessary to reassure citizens," Internal Security Forces commander Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said.
In mid-June Christians in the Sidon area found leaflets tacked to their homes that warned them to leave immediately. So far, no group has taken responsibility.
"All those who operate in the dark will not succeed because Lebanon has moved past this stage," Lebanese parliamentarian Amr Khoury said.