Lebanese Christians Take up Arms Against Nusra Front

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Ras Baalbek, Lebanon
November 13, 2014

Christians living in the villages of Qaa and Ras Baalbek, near the Syrian border in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, have begun arming themselves against extremist groups from Syria. Volunteers are organizing village militias to protect their communities from Nusra Front and Islamic State militants whose plan is to extend their caliphate to the Mediterranean coast. Abu George and Michel, two militiamen from Qaa say that they received threats from Nusra Front after the Islamist group attacked and destroyed the Christian town of Maaloula, in Syria, in September 2013. Threats have multiplied after clashes erupted in the town of Arsal in August between the Lebanese Army and Islamist fighters who crossed the border from Syria. More than 20 Lebanese soldiers and policemen were captured in this incident, some of whom were executed.

  1. Various of hills
  2. Wide of church
  3. Wide of street
  4. Various of church
  5. Wide of Lebanese Army vehicle driving on dirt road
  6. Medium of Michel (Christian militiaman) driving
  7. Close-up of hands on steering wheel
  8. Travelling of hills
  9. Pan left of wooden crosses and Michel (Christian militiaman)

  10. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    The municipality of Ras Baalbek has four men working as guards in the local police station. We stand guard at night and day, and when we encounter anything, we directly report it to the army, which takes action. There are six platoons from the [Lebanese Army] Airborne Regiment; there are soldiers from the Border Guard Regiment; and soldiers from the 8th Infantry Brigade are positioned on the border up there.

  11. Medium of cross

  12. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    Soldiers from the 8th Infantry Brigade position sometimes go on patrols. These mountains are empty; there is nothing there. There is fear that an infiltration might occur. It is very cloudy and we cannot see anything, and someone might cross over from there.
    We only fear that someone might sneak during the night, or even during the winter when fog covers the town. This why we stay awake all night long guarding the town. Of course we collaborate with the Lebanese Army

  13. Wide of church

  14. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    Soon, when winter comes, the weather becomes very snowy and cold. Some of them [fighters] will have to escape the cold and eventually come to our village; this is why we have to have stand guard during the night with help of the Lebanese Army.

  15. Medium of church bell

  16. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Michel, militiaman from Ras Baalbek town
    If any [fighter] comes from the hilltops, the Lebanese Army will warn us. It will not be easy [for fighters to infiltrate] since they need at least two hours to get to the town. We would then have to move our children, women and elderly, and to defend our homes, honor and homes.

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  19. Wide of grocery store

  20. Traveling of old man walking

  21. Wide of grocery store

  22. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Elias Mansour
    As Christians, we are not afraid. We will never leave our land and homes, we are very proud as Christians. Jesus Christ is always with us.

  23. Medium of church mural

  24. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Elias Mansour
    Every night, we have around 400 young men who assist the army and are always ready.

  25. Medium of Abu George driving

  26. Close up of rifle inside the car

  27. Medium of Abu George carrying rifle next to 4x4 vehicle

  28. Traveling of militiaman walking and holding rifle and binoculars

  29. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu George, 40 years old, and militiaman from Qaa, retired Lebanese soldier
    There have been several infiltration attempts, which have been dealt with.
    Not long ago -- about 15 days ago -- an infiltration attempt took place and it was dealt with. These attempts are taking place in small numbers. They [fighters] have probably come to see whether there is someone who is vigilant or not, and they saw what they should see.

  30. Tilt down of rifle held by Abu George

  31. Wide of militiaman aiming sniper rifle

  32. SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Abu George, 40 years old, and militiaman from Qaa, retired Lebanese soldier
    Of course, they will not spare us. These people, despite the fact that they speak in the name of religion, are faithless and do not have no mercy on anyone; they do not have mercy on whoever they reach. We saw what happened to others and we do not want have to live the same experience. After what happened in Maaloula [a Syrian Christian town taken by Nusra Front], they threatened to do the same to us. They said they will do the same in one of the Christian towns of Northern Beqaa – our village is located in this area. This is a direct threat to neighboring villages and to us.

  33. Wide of militiaman aiming sniper rifle