Al Qaeda in Lebanon

Lebanese security agencies have obtained intelligence in recent years, about the activities of al-Qaeda which uses Lebanon as a base to support the resistance movements in Iraq and Palestine, and to reinforce Jihad against internal Lebanese forces. Also, the Lebanese Defense Minister, Fayez Ghosn, pointed out that some al-Qaeda members have recently entered Syria from the Bekaa town of Arsal.

Hence, what the Lebanese Minister of Defense announced about al-Qaeda in Lebanon, reminds us of the “Fatah al-Islam Organization “,”Abdullah Azzam Battalions”, And “ZiadJarrah Battalions”, which are practically al-Qaeda branches in the Levant, and the organizations that had previously claimed the responsibility for the implementation of operations against the Lebanese army and the “UNIFIL” forces of the United Nations in 2006, after al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced that Lebanon is the land of Jihad and that al-Qaeda will fight the Crusaders through the international forces operating in the south .

Al Qaeda in Figures:
There are a lot of things and incidents, in addition to the announcement of the Lebanese defense minister, that confirm the presence of al-Qaeda cells in Lebanon, such as “Al-Qaeda and the state of Lebanon” electronic organization, the arrested of 20 Lebanese people by the Lebanese authorities in 2002, on charges of the establishment of al-Qaeda in Lebanon, and the announcement of the names of some al-Qaeda leaders who were involved in the bombings of Lebanon.

Also, the Lebanese Hussein Faris, was arrested in Buenos Aires in 2002, on charges of the involvement in a terrorist bombing, and the Lebanese Diab Abu Jahjah was also arrested in the same year in Belgium, on charges of terrorism carried out by Al-Qaeda. In 2004, the Italian Embassy in Beirut and the Lebanese Ministry of Interior revealed that they had foiled a terrorist attack on the embassy’s headquarters, and arrested two of Al-Qaeda networks. At the same year, the Lebanese Mohammed Kamal al-Zahabi was arrested in America, on charges of terrorism linked to Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, 13 Syrian, Saudi, Palestinian, and Lebanese members of “the Thirteen Group” were arrested in 2006, on charges of pledging alliance to Al-Qaeda leaders, not to mention Ziad Jarrah, who was one of the 19 people who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Furthermore, Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the presence of Al-Qaeda organization in Lebanon, on September, 2006, when he said in an audio recording that Lebanon is the land of jihad and that Al-Qaeda will fight the Crusaders through the international forces operating in the south, a thing which made “Abdullah Azzam Battalions”, And “Ziad Jarrah Battalions”, undertake military operations from southern Lebanon, against the Lebanese and UNIFIL forces, and Israel.

Moreover, “Ein el-Hilweh”, the Palestinian camp in Lebanon, east of Sidon, turned after the occupation of Iraq in 2003, to a shelter for fundamentalist movements, such as, “Fatah al-Islam” and “Jund al-Sham” organizations, which recruited hundreds of young Arab men in Lebanon “The land of victory”, in preparation for the move to Iraq “The land of Jihad”, however most of them moved to “The cold river camp” to fight the Lebanese army. Nevertheless, “Fatah al-Islam Organization” headed by Shaker al-Absi, who was an aid to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, waged terrorist attacks against the Lebanese army in “The cold river Palestinian camp” in northern Lebanon in 2007, which ended in the elimination of the “Fatah al-Islam Organization”, by the Lebanese forces.

Lebanon, a Jihadist Salafi Front:

Fatah al-Islam Organization turned Lebanon into a Jihadist Salafi Front, even after its defeat at the hands of the Lebanese army in 2007, for Fatah al-Islam’s experience had opened the doors for the emergence of other organizations in “Ein el-Hilweh” and “The cold River” camps, such as “The Ansar Group” and “Jund al-Sham” that carried out terrorist operations against some Palestinians.

Azzam Battalions, Al-Qaeda in Lebanon:

Lebanon used to be a temporary headquarter rather than Al-Qaeda base for the people who belonged to the ideology of Al-Qaeda, however it seems that it has recently become one of Al-Qaeda bases, after the emergence of “Abdullah Azzam” and ” Ziad Jarrah” battalions, in 2004. And although most of the members of these organizations are either Saudis or Palestinians, the Lebanese security services classified these organizations as Lebanese terrorist groups due to their presence in Lebanese territories.

Al-Qaeda in Ein el-Hilweh:

Intelligence services found that the leader of “Abdullah Azzam Battalions”, the movement that emerged in “Ein el-Hilweh” a Palestinian refugee camp, is a Saudi man named “Saleh Abdullah Qaraawi”, who is wanted by Saudi authorities on terrorism charges. It is also rumored that the Saudi known as “Abu Jabal”, who is wanted by the United States, exists in “Ein el-Hilweh camp”, and has close relations with “Abdullah Azzam Battalions”. It is also said that basal Abd al-MajidAzzam, the grandson of Abdullah Azam, and the Palestinian Tawfiq Taha, who is wanted by the Lebanese security services due to the involvement in more than a terrorist attack, are both found in “Ein el-Hilweh camp”, in addition to Majid al-Majid, who the Lebanese security say came to Lebanon from Iraq through Syria to organize the ranks of the fighters, thus is considered the most dangerous member.

It is also rumored that the Ein el-Hilweh camp alone, harbors more than 200 Al-Qaeda members. Thus, the Lebanese security forces fear the emergence of more terrorist organizations in Palestinian refugee camps, since these camps already harbored lots of extremist groups such as, “Abdullah Azzam Battalions”, and the “Jund al-Sham Organization”, and some members from Al-Qaeda such as, Haitham Abdul Karim al-Saadi, known as “Abu Tariq “, Abdel-Ghani Jawhar, Naeem Abbas, and Ziad Abu Naaj.

Lebanon is a pathway rather than a Base:

The experton Islamic Affairs, Omar Bakri Fustuq, pointed out that the terrorist members which the Lebanese security services and the Palestinian factions announced, are people who sympathize with Al-Qaeda,but do not belong to it, and stressed that Saleh Qaraawi is not one of Al-Qaeda leaders, and that Al-Qaeda does not exist in Lebanon nor in Levant.

Fustuq also emphasized that the terrorist attacks of “Fatah al-Islam” against the Lebanese army in “The Cold River Camp”in 2007, is the result of the political situation in Lebanon, and thus has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, for not all terrorist actions are linked to Al-Qaeda. And, as regards the activity of “Al-Qaeda and the state of Lebanon” web-organization, Fustuq stressed that it is backed by the Syrian security services,for there are no Salafi Jihadist groups in Lebanon that move under the command of Al-Qaeda organization. Fustuq also pointed out that the Salafi Jihadist groups in Lebanon belong to the Lebanese system, including “Abdullah Azzam Battalions” which the Lebanese security regard as Al-Qaeda branch in Levant,since the way they work and their styles in the dissemination of their ideas do not resemble the style of Al-Qaeda. Also,”Abdullah Azzam Battalions” aim to fight the Israeli enemy, so that “Hezbollah” does not monopolize this task.

Fustuq also added that the Palestinian refugee camps alone cannot function as Al-Qaeda base in Lebanon; for they decided in the nineties that Lebanon is not fit for their activities since the Sunnis in Lebanon are not Salafists, and most of them espouse the Ash’ari-Hanafi approach, which the organization refuses. Still, Fustuq believes that Lebanon maybe used by Al-Qaeda as a pathway rather than a base.
Source: Al-Watan Qatari Newspaper