Militant Group in Lebanon Issues Warning to Sunnis

Hours after the warning, three rockets struck a Hezbollah stronghold in the northeastern town of Hermel near the Syrian border.

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An Al-Qaida-inspired group in Lebanon on Saturday warned Sunni Muslims to stay away from areas dominated by their Shi'ite brethren, saying it intends to attack strongholds of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Hezbollah group that is fighting in Syria.

The Nusra Front in Lebanon made the Friday on Twitter and it was reposted a day later on websites used by militant groups.

The Nusra Front in Lebanon takes its name from the powerful Al-Qaida-linked group fighting in Syria against the rule of President Bashar Assad. The group has claimed responsibility for two small bombing attacks targeting Lebanese Shi'ites in January that killed six people.

Hard-line Sunni groups increasingly have been targeting Lebanon's Shi'ite community, apparently as punishment for Hezbollah gunmen openly fighting alongside Assad's forces in Syria since last year.

Hours after the warning, three rockets struck a Hezbollah stronghold in the northeastern town of Hermel near the Syrian border without causing casualties, the state-run National News Agency and residents said.

Also Saturday, Syria's Greek Orthodox Patriarch, John Yazigi, said in Beirut that a dozen nuns kidnapped by opposition fighters in Syria late last year "are fine."

Speaking to reporters, Yazigi said there was contact between the nuns and his office "several days ago."

"They were then in a house in Yabroud and they are well but that is not enough. We hope that they will be released soon," Yazigi said. Yabroud is a Syrian rebel-held town near the border with Lebanon.

The seizure of the 12 Greek Orthodox nuns and at least three other women was the latest attack to spark panic among Syria's Christians over the strength of Al-Qaida-linked militants and other Islamic radicals in the nearly 3-year-old revolt against Assad's government. A priest and two bishops previously kidnapped by rebels remain missing.

Yazigi said he has no information about the two bishops but hopes they are fine.

Rebels seized the nuns in late November from the Greek Orthodox Mar Takla convent when fighters overran Maaloula, a mainly Christian village north of Damascus. The group, along with three women who work in the convent's orphanage, were taken to the nearby rebel-held town of Yabroud.

Members of Islamist Syrian rebel group Nusra Front pose for a picture at a checkpoint separating area regime- and rebel-controlled areas December 17, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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