Asbat al-Ansar was established in the early 1990s, aiming to overthrow the Lebanese Government and prevent what they perceive as anti-Sunni Islamic influences in the country. The group is mostly comprised of Palestinians and is based in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near the port town of Sidon in southern Lebanon. It is believed to be associated with Al-Qaeda elements.
During the 1990s the group carried out a series of low-level terror attacks against domestic 'un-Islamic' targets such as churches, bars, and casinos. Since 2000, and probably with the logistical support of Al-Qaeda elements, the group began attacking western and international targets as well, such as the bombing of the Russian Embassy in Beirut in 2000 and the bombing of three fast food restaurants in 2002. Asbat al-Ansar is also believed to be responsible for an attempt to car bomb a McDonald's restaurant in a Beirut suburb in 2003.
The operational activities of Ansar al-Islam have been reduced significantly in the last few years, and the group's strength and resources remain unclear at this point. However, some members of the group are believed to be involved, possibly on a more logistical level, in the activities of other radical elements operating in the country.
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