Al-Qaeda is building its network in Lebanon in the light of the developments taking place in the neighboring Syria, US daily Washington Post reported.
"Al-Qaeda appears to be steadily building its support networks and capacity in Lebanon, where fears are growing that a new influx of militants from the Syrian border region could bolster the terror group's ranks and stoke instability," the daily said on Wednesday.
It noted that the security in Lebanon has deteriorated after the latest developments in Syria: the recapturing of the last bastion of the foreign-backed militants in Qalamoun, Yabroud and the escalation in the border with the occupied territories in Golan.
"A significant number of fighters from the Syrian wing of Jabhat al-Nusra — al-Qaeda's representative in the Syrian war — are present in Syria's mountainous border region, and analysts said the Syrian government's continued efforts to squeeze out rebels from the area could push more of them into Lebanon."
The Washington post quoted these analysts as saying that these developments could "escalate instability by significantly boosting the operational capability of the Lebanese branch of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is already gaining a foothold."
"Nusra in Lebanon are so far localized in the lawless border zones and are not that significant yet," said Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum who specializes in extremist groups.
"They appear to have just adopted the name of the Syrian group and the two have not become one yet, but that could change if there was an influx of fighters from Syria."
Nusra Front claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Sunday in the Bekaa town of Nabi Othman. The Grand Cherokee car driven by the suicide bomber was heading to another place but was discovered by two men, Abdul Rahman al-Qadi and Khalil Khalil who hased it and tried to stop the vehicle before it blew up.
But other terror groups, particularly the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanese al-Qaeda affiliate, "pose the most immediate threat," said a senior army officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The group has asserted responsibility for double suicide bombings on the Iranian cultural center in Beirut and the Embassy of Iran.
The officer said the Azzam Brigades and Jabhat al-Nusra appear to work in tandem, sometimes releasing joint statements.
The army has largely dismantled one strand of the Azzam Brigades, which has its roots in Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, the daily quoted the officer as saying, but has not arrested any members of its second cell, headed by Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the group's religious leader.
The Azzam Brigades suffered a blow in December, when the group's leader, Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, was apprehended as he sought medical treatment in Lebanon for a kidney problem, then died shortly after.
While the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Azzam Brigades are believed to be small, al-Qaeda affiliates have a large pool of disenfranchised Sunnis in Lebanon to call upon, according to the daily.
"Several of the suicide bombers in recent attacks have been Lebanese nationals. Others have been Palestinian and Syrian, according to Lebanese authorities."
"With a vacuum in mainstream Sunni political leadership in Lebanon, Sunni youth in areas such as the northern port city of Tripoli are increasingly expressing support for extremist groups, analysts say."