— مراسل القلمون (@qalamoon6) January 10, 2015
The Al Nusrah Front for the people of the Levant, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, conducted a double suicide bombing in the predominately Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen today in Tripoli.
The Alawite cafe was likely targeted to send a message to Syrian president Bashar al Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite Shiite religious sect of Islam.
The attack began at 7:30 in the evening when a grenade was tossed into the cafe. Then, the first suicide bomber entered the cafe and detonated his explosive vest. The Daily Star quoted a Lebanese security official as saying that the second suicide bomber could not enter the restaurant and instead “blew himself up outside.”
The Al Nusrah Front has taken responsibility for the attack on Twitter (see tweet above). The jihadist group said the operation was “in revenge for the Sunnis of Syria and Lebanon.”
An Al Nusrah figure on Twitter identified the two bombers as Abu Hussein al Tarablusi and Abu Abdulrahman al Tarablusi, two Lebanese natives according to their noms de guerre. The Daily Star corroborated this claim by reporting that the two suicide bombers, whose real names were Taha Kayal and Bilal Ibrahim, were Lebanese citizens from a poor Sunni neighborhood in Tripoli.
Today’s bombing in Tripoli marked the continuing spillover of the fighting in Syria into the neighboring country.
Al Nusrah has executed other suicide operations in Lebanon in the past. In January 2014, the group launched a suicide attack attack on Hezbollah in the Lebanese town of Hermel in the Bekaa Valley. In early February 2014, Al Nusrah executed a second suicide bombing against Hezbollah in Hermel. In both attacks, the jihadist group said its motivation was to force Hezbollah to stop supporting the Syrian regime in Syria.
Al Nusrah has also fought both Hezbollah and Lebanese forces inside Lebanon. On Oct. 6, 2014, the jihadist group released a video showcasing a recent operation in the town of Brital. The attack left 11 Hezbollah fighters dead and several others wounded, while 16 Al Nusrah fighters were killed, according to The New York Times. A few months earlier, Al Nusrah and fighters from the Islamic State battled against Lebanese forces in the border town of Arsal. This attack left several Lebanese troops dead and several others were taken hostage.
Other jihadist groups have conducted suicide bombings inside Lebanon. On Nov. 19, 2013, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut with a twin suicide attack, killing 23 people and wounding more than 140 others. This incident was also claimed as a move to force Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran, to leave the fighting in Syria. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades is an al Qaeda-linked organization that operates in Lebanon and various other Middle Eastern countries. [For more information on the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, see LWJ report US adds Abdullah Azzam Brigades to list of terror groups]
Additionally, on Jan. 14, 2014, the Islamic State (then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) claimed credit for a Jan. 2 car bombing in Beirut that killed four people and wounded more than 70. The attack, which may have been executed by a suicide bomber, took place outside of Hezbollah’s political office in the neighborhood of Haret Hreik.