Thursday, July 3, 2014

15 suicide bombers recently arrived to Lebanon: Western intelligence, by Radwan Mortada

Lebanese army intelligence apprehended a suicide bombings operative known as Abu Ubaida Zahraman while his partner remains in hiding. Makers of the explosive belts used in DuRoy Hotel in Raouche were also arrested. Amid rumors and false news about the proliferation of suicide bombers and terrorist cells, Western intelligence sources indicated that around 20 suicide bombers arrived in Lebanon in the past two months.

Surrounded by a state of emergency and panic caused by the spectre of suicide bombings looming over the country, security sources managed to direct several blows at terrorist sleeper cells in Lebanon. It became evident that they received "orders" to commence a series of operations against several targets to ignite the situation in the country.

By "coincidence,” three different security services were involved in separate operations leading to the discovery of several cells (Napoleon Hotel - Information Branch of the ISF, DuRoy - General Security, and Fnaideq and Qalamoun - army intelligence). However, these security forces became flooded with rumors.

Emergency lines at the ISF and other security services received hundreds of calls about suspects and alleged security situations, which might cause confusion and distract attention from the real perpetrators.

The General Directorate of General Security began implementing extraordinary measures in light of the operation to apprehend the terrorist cells. At Beirut airport, it refused to grant permission to around 60 passengers carrying various Arab and European passports to enter the country. This was based on the discretionary authority of General Security to forbid entry to any suspicious person.

In the meantime, General Security officers and staff are conducting a detailed survey on around 4,000 recently arrived foreign visitors, to determine any links to suspected groups or involvement in terrorist activities.

Recently, Lebanese security forces obtained information from European and US intelligence that put the total number of suspected bombers in the country at 20 (security sources said it was likely that it includes the bombers in the past three operations and the two recent detainees). The suspects are affiliated with various "jihadi" groups.

During interrogations, the detainee in the DuRoy operation said that his emir had sent him, along with the person who blew up himself, to target the General Security headquarters near the national museum. This was in retaliation for the arrest of Abdul-Malik Abdul-Salam (a Jordanian known as the "wolf of al-Qaeda," apprehended along with Shadi al-Mawlawi from Tripoli and a Qatari citizen, who was released and handed over to his country's authorities). The suspect added that al-Munzer al-Hassan informed them of the new target, al-Saha Restaurant in Dahiyeh, after arriving in Beirut.

In further developments, General Security raided a hotel in the Saifi neighborhood on Saturday, after the hotel management informed them about a Jordanian guest who asked to be sent to al-Saha restaurant to fulfil his dream. The hotel told the security forces that the man did not look older than 20, and that he carried an unknown device in his pocket.

Based on this description, which matched the profile of previous suicide bombers, the security forces apprehended the young Jordanian (born in 1996), who only carried with him $30 and a one way ticket to Lebanon. His cell phone did not contain a SIM card, which he might have ingested, and he did not carry explosives or other devices, claiming to be a tourist. Investigations are ongoing and he will be deported in the event of lack of evidence of links with terrorist groups.

On the other hand, army intelligence continued to interrogate M. Zahraman, aka Abu Ubaida, who was arrested in Fnaideq and is suspected of several terrorist crimes. A few days earlier, army intelligence had arrested another suspect with the same name, but who is less important. The army began its monitoring operation after receiving information that Abu Ubaida has a brother called Haitham, whom they found in the Fnaideq family register.

Abu Ubaida is accused of being a "member of a terrorist organization and suspected of involvement in security operations and recruiting terrorists." Following his arrest, it became apparent that he was linked to some of the recent terrorist bombings.

Security sources indicated that Zahraman is the partner of al-Munzer al-Hassan, suspected of delivering the explosive belts to the Raouche suicide bombers. The two men were key in operations by extremist groups against several targets. According to the sources, Abu Ubaida – in his thirties and with a clean record – was close to al-Taqwa Mosque imam, Sheikh Salem al-Rafei.

In light of Zahraman's arrest, army intelligence apprehended M. Khaled and A. Kanaan in Fnaideq, for their links with the two primary suspects. However, it is not yet clear if they belonged to Abdullah Azzam Brigades or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is more likely. Security sources maintained that Abu Ubaida had employed both Khaled Kanaan in making the bombs and preparing the explosives belts.

Based on the confessions obtained, the sources explained that the belts delivered to the Saudi suicide bombers in DuRoy were the last ones made. The army confiscated several prepared explosives, belts, and ball bearings in a cave in Fnaideq. The location was revealed by Kanaan, who also said it was being used to prepare the bombs.

According to a statement by the army, the cave contained "ready explosives, weapons, DVDs, and several several mobile phones and SIM cards, in addition to documents and books on preparing explosives."

Army intelligence had been looking for al-Hassan in Baddawi camp, where he arrived in one of two identified cars. However, he quickly disappeared. Security sources said it is likely al-Hassan fled on a motorcycle in the direction of Akkar. Khaled claimed the piece of land used to prepare the explosives belonged to the suspect in hiding. Several mortar shells, hand grenades, and explosives were found buried in the ground.
The Qalamoun cell, on the other hand, was planning to assassinate the General Security office director in Tripoli, Major Khattar Naser al-Din, and was unconnected to the Fnaideq cell. The five detainees confessed that they were preparing for several operations, in addition to the assassination, not carried out by suicide bombers. They had planned to plant explosives in several centers in Beirut and the Bekaa to "cause strife between the Sunnis and the Shia," according to security officials.

Security sources indicated that the five detainees do not make up the whole cell, as several of their associates fled to an unidentified location. The sources added that the Qalamoun cell was linked to the infamous Abdullah Azzam Brigades operator Bilal Kayed, who was arrested by army intelligence two months ago.

Kayed had not mentioned the Qalamoun cell in either of his confessions to the army intelligence and the Information Branch. He was interrogated again after the arrests. A security source indicated Kayed was one of the important detainees in recent times and was very close to Abdullah Azzam Brigades' former emir, Majed al-Majed, a Saudi citizen.

Three hundred billion liras lost

It seems that the question of imposing visas on nationals of several countries had been raised last April. The General Directorate of General Security delivered a study to the political authorities, suggesting the imposition of visas, based on the principle of reciprocity.

The study maintained that visas should be imposed on nationals of all countries that impose visas on Lebanese citizens in the same manner. General Security explained that this was mainly on security grounds, on the one hand, and for financial reasons, on the other.

According to the study, Lebanon lost 300 billion Lebanese lira in revenues due to visa exemptions to nationals of several countries in the past six years.