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Syrian conflict stokes Sunni anger in Lebanon, with army now seen as threat

For more and more Sunni Muslim militants in Lebanon, the army is transforming from an ineffective and neutral player to an enemy. “Today, we feel that the army is the lap of the devil,” said Bilal Masri, a leader of one of Tripoli’s many Sunni militias. “We feel that the Lebanese army does not have its own orders, it works for a foreign agenda.” Since Syria’s civil war began in the spring of 2011, Sunni militants in Lebanon have been emboldened by the successes of the mostly Sunni Syrian rebels. Increasingly, Lebanese Sunni militants see themselves as part of the Syrian rebels’ fight — with Hezbollah, the powerful Shia movement and militia that is often seen as the dominant actor in Lebanon, representing an extension of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. Now Sunni militants in Lebanon are accusing the Lebanese army of picking sides, too.