Suicide bombers hit predominantly Christian Lebanese village near border

IMAGE: CNS photo/Hassan Abdallah, Reuters

By Doreen Abi Raad

(CNS) — Suicide bombers attacked a predominantly Christian village in
northeast Lebanon twice in one day, and residents called on the government to
support them, saying Islamic State fighters were holed up on the outskirts of

separate sets of four suicide bombers attacked the village of Qaa June 27; the
first attack killed five people in addition to the bombers. About 30 people
were injured in the two incidents, the second of which occurred near St. Elias
Melkite Catholic Church as people were preparing for the funerals of the people
killed in the first bombing.

incidents sparked fears that the Syrian civil war was spilling into Lebanon;
Qaa is near the border with Syria’s Homs district. Local news reports and
security sources said the Islamic State group was suspected of the attacks, but
no one claimed responsibility. The Lebanese Army has indicated Islamic State
hopes to force the Christian community to leave the village and, by controlling
Qaa, its militants will be able to start ensure a corridor to the Mediterranean

Catholic Archbishop Elias Rahal of Baalbek traveled to Qaa after the first
attack and told Catholic News Service by phone: “We pray, we pray, we pray
for the dead, for the injured. … We are here for the families and for their
children,” he said, because people “are shaken by these terrorists.”

sounds of people wailing could be heard in the background as he spoke to CNS.

all that has happened,” he said, the Christians are holding on to their
faith and are determined to maintain their presence in the area. “We are
here and we are here to stay.”

the second blast, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham had visited
with wounded who had been taken to a Beirut hospital, about 90 miles from the

of Qaa had organized patrols to guard their village against such attacks and
had been successful until these suicide bombings. The village has a population of about 15,000, predominantly Melkite Catholic, with some Maronite Catholic and
Orthodox. Between 20,000 and 30,000 Syrian refugees also live in the area.

Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, issued a statement June
27 during a pastoral visit to New York, expressing his “extreme sorrow”
over the bombings.

hand of terror carried out once again on Lebanon’s soil … in the dear town of
Qaa , a town of peace, love and coexistence,” he said.

called on the Lebanese to “return to their national unity and solidarity
to confront the terrorist schemes that are being plotted against Lebanon” and
urged the Lebanese officials to “shoulder their national responsibilities
in order to spare Lebanon more tragedies.”

army has periodically fought off jihadist factions along the border area with
Syria and has sought to clamp down on local cells operating in the area.

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