Friday, August 17, 2007

And Just Who Is in the "Bubble", Bubba?

Jihadist Killers Use God, Guns to Win Recruits in Lebanon Camps

Young men with beards, black T-shirts and pistols hanging on their belts emerge from Friday prayers at a mosque in Ein el-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in central Lebanon.

They belong to Usbat al-Ansar, an Islamic group that has fought repeated gun battles against the Lebanese Army and Fatah, the dominant faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization. Bullet holes in the mosque's minaret attest to the ferocity of the clashes.

Usbat al-Ansar is just one of about a dozen armed Islamic groups within Lebanon's 12 camps, residents say. Their emergence reflects the bleak living conditions and high unemployment in the politically rudderless areas, which have become a breeding ground for jihadist killers. Operatives from the groups are suspected of involvement in a series of bombings against Lebanese politicians, as well as a June attack that killed six United Nations soldiers.

``That's what's scary, that we have small groups that more or less operate in a bubble,'' says Andrew Exum, a former U.S. Ranger platoon commander in Afghanistan and Iraq who lived in Lebanon for two years and is now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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