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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sending Al Qaeda Men to Lebanon

Taking its cue from the “Iraqi example,” Syria is training Islamic groups to stage attacks in Lebanon.

According to Lebanese Druze sources linked to Damascus, the Lebanon department of Syrian military intelligence headed by general Rustom Ghawzale is presently training Syrian, Jordanian, Yemenite and Saudi militants who are recruited among Arab contingents making their way across Syria to join Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq.

The aim of the exercise is to have them subsequently infiltrate Lebanon in order to carry out attacks against the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese army when the moment comes or to trigger clashes between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Lebanon. That is precisely the same scenario deployed in Iraq by ex-Ba’ath party militants with backing from Syrian intelligence.

For several years the Damascus regime has maintained ambiguous but continuous relations in Lebanon with Sunni extremists of Lebanese or Palestinian extraction who are close to Ossama ben Laden’s Al Qaeda movement. One organization in question is the Osbat al Ansar movement headed by the Palestinian Abu Mahjen who operates out of Ein el Hilweh camp near Saida. The movement has sent militants to Iraq.

In the same camp, the tiny Jund Asham cell, which sprung up recently, could also serve as a haven for new Al Qaeda elements arriving from Syria. Lebanese security services have already arrested 18 Salafist militants belonging to the cell.

Elsewhere, a Saudi security delegation which arrived in Beirut on Aug. 25 obtained the extradition of a Saudi national, Faysal Assad Akbar. Entering Lebanon with a fake passport (in the name of Fahd Mohamed al Khadem al Yamani), he fought in Al Qaeda ranks in Afghanistan before setting up operations in Syria, where he was in charge of arming and financing fighters bound for Iraq. He then went on to recruit militants in “Ghazale’s network” which is reportedly commanded by a Syrian known by the name of Jamil.

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