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Page last updated at 09:44 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 10:44 UK

Analysis: Lebanon-Syria attacks linked?

Scene of Monday's bombing in Tripoli, Lebanon (29 September 2008)
Recent bombings In Lebanon and Syria may represent a new trend for militants

In Lebanon analysts are linking a bombing in the north of the country to a recent one in Syria, BBC Beirut correspondent Natalia Antelava reports.

Lebanese security officials say that a bomb explosion in the northern city of Tripoli was a terrorist attack aimed against security and stability in the country.

This is the second attack on the Lebanese army in recent weeks, last month 14 died in a similar explosion in Tripoli.

And just two days ago at least 17 people were killed when a car bomb exploded near a government security centre in the capital of neighbouring Syria.

The Syrian authorities say that the week-end's attack in Damascus was carried out by a suicide bomber who belonged to an extremist Islamist group.

The car, which was packed with explosives, crossed into Syria the day before from what the official statement described as a "neighbouring Arab country".

Baghdad-style attacks

This region is used to violence and explosions, and al-Qaeda-linked militants have been present in Lebanon, and especially in the Palestinian refugee camps, for at least a decade.

Security in Iraq is improving, but the militants are being driven across the border
Political analyst Kamel Wazne

But these car bombs seem to mark a new trend, and some analysts say it is directly linked to the changing situation in Iraq.

While the security situation there is improving, US-led operations against insurgents may be driving their members across the border into neighbouring countries.

"Security in Iraq is improving, but the militants are being driven across the border. There is a large number of militants that is coming into Syria and Lebanon, and our countries are paying the price for what is happening in Iraq," says academic and independent political analyst Kamel Wazne.

There has been no official claim of responsibility for the explosion in Tripoli, but there are fears that it could add fuel to the sectarian divide between the city's Shia and Sunni Muslims.

'Outside threat'

Last May, fighting between the Sunni supporters of pro-Western government and those of the Shia pro-Syrian Hezbollah put the country on a brink of a civil war.

Then a peace deal was signed, and the sides came to a negotiating table. But in Tripoli violence carried on until only two weeks ago, when the two sides agreed on a truce.

Many in Lebanon fear that Monday's attack aims at undermining the nationwide reconciliation effort.

"We will not let them drive us into a sectarian battle and there will be no fighting between the people of the same country," said Malik Ashaahar, the Mufti of Tripoli.

But some here believe the Lebanese government should do more to handle what they believe is a threat from outside.

"Someone has to clear this mess, because otherwise it will spread and everyone will be exposed to the danger of terrorism," says Kamal Wazne.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Lebanon
12 Jul 08 |  Country profiles
Lebanon lurches back to the brink
13 Aug 08 |  Middle East


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