Al Qaida targets Lebanese government for being pro-West

Monday, June 16, 2003

Lebanese officials said Al Qaida-aligned insurgents have threatened to avenge the arrest of scores of people linked to a plot to bomb U.S. and British interests and restaurants in Lebanon earlier this year.

The officials said the insurgents want to focus their attacks on leading Lebanese politicians regarded as being pro-West.

The first target of the insurgents has been Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the billionaire industrialist regarded as close to Saudi Arabia. Over the weekend, two missiles slammed into Hariri's media outlets in Beirut. The 107 mm missiles set on fire a building that houses Hariri's radio and television stations.

"The same groups, which tried in the past to wreck national peace and destabilize the country and those who carried out a series of bombings at McDonalds and others are the same people who are back carrying out these kind of bombings," Lebanese Interior Minister Elias Murr said. "Our duty is to reject and combat these groups."

A previously unknown group called Ansar Allah, or Partisans of God, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is believed to be linked to Al Qaida and threatened to strike anybody who directs his "poisonous arrows at the heart of the resistance and holy war and warriors."

The missiles were said to have been detonated by a timer attached to a sedan. The car itself, parked in front of the Saudi embassy in Beirut, was destroyed when the missles were fired on early Sunday.

"This is definitely a political message which will certainly be deciphered soon," Information Minister Michel Samaha said.

Last week, Lebanon's government asserted that it had foiled major Islamic attacks in a demonstration that Beirut was determined to cooperate with Arab and Western countries against insurgency. In April and May, authorities arrested nearly 50 people linked to a cell that targeted U.S. and British interests in Lebanon. The capture of the cell led to the U.S. decision to reopen its consulate in Beirut after being closed for nearly 20 years.

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