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Lebanese soldier defects to al Qaeda's Syrian branch
The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, has posted pictures and a video on its official Twitter feeds showing a Lebanese soldier who has defected to the jihadists' cause.
The soldier is identified as Mohammad Antar and his military identification is displayed during the video. While sitting and holding his weapon, Antar delivers a speech for the camera. He is flanked by two Al Nusrah fighters and the group's black banner is draped in the background.
Al Nusrah is using the video of Antar in its ongoing propaganda campaign against Iran and Hezbollah. The al Qaeda group is seeking to further provoke Sunnis in Lebanon into a sectarian conflict against Shiites and the Lebanese government.
"I'm the soldier Mohammed Antar from the Rafik Hariri International Airport's guard platoon," the soldier says in Al Nusrah's video. "I announce my defection from the Lebanese army which is supporting the tyrants and defending the 'party of Satan' [Hezbollah]," he adds.
Antar says he has joined Al Nusrah in order "to defend the Sunni community" against Hezbollah and the Lebanese army. He accuses the latter of mistreating Syrian refugees in Arsal. Fighters from the Al Nusrah Front fought against Lebanese forces in Arsal this past summer.
The Al Nusrah Front has repeatedly tried to portray itself as the defender of the refugees, as well as Lebanon's Sunni civilians.
The themes in the brief video of Antar are consistent with other Al Nusrah Front productions. Earlier this month, Al Nusrah released a video showing its raid on a Hezbollah outpost in the town of Brital, which is close to the border with Syria.
Al Nusrah is holding a number of Lebanese soldiers and security officials captive, and the group is using its hostages in its anti-Iran, anti-Hezbollah messaging.
In a statement released on one of its Twitter feeds on Sept. 29, the Al Nusrah Front claimed that Lebanon's general security services had agreed to turn over 10 Syrian refugees to Bashar al Assad's regime. The implication was that Lebanon's security officials are colluding with Assad against Sunnis.
"We warn of a deal that has been reached and of its ramifications on the general security services and its chief, who is under the sway of the Iranian party," meaning Hezbollah, the statement reads. Lebanese officials quickly denied Al Nusrah's allegations.
The Lebanese government is "steered by the Iranian party [Hezbollah]," Al Nusrah continued in its Sept. 29 message, and the people need "to stop this government in its tracks."
Antar's defection to the Al Nusrah Front is not the first time that a Lebanese soldier has renounced his military service. In July, Al Nusrah promoted the defection of another soldier in a video posted online.
Al Nusrah is portraying Antar and other defectors as men who want to defend their fellow Sunnis against the Iranian axis. Al Nusrah will likely continue to promote Lebanese defectors in its propaganda.
[Source: By Thomas Joscelyn, The Long War Journal, NJ, 11Oct14]
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