Islamism Exclusive - By Dr. Haytham Mouzahem - Islamism Exclusive -
The scene of Jihadists black flags in some of Lebanon’s cities suggests that Jihadist organizations is constant in declaring itself in Lebanon, and that they have incubating base and self-confidence.
However, the emergence of al-Qaeda organization in Lebanon has begun before the Syrian crisis in 2011, specifically in 2007 with the increase of the activities of “Fatah al-Islam”, “Abdallah Azam Brigades” and “Brigades of Ziad al-Jarrah”.
Some media reports have mentioned that the organization of the “Islamic State”(ISIS) has established its presence in Tripoli and other Lebanese cities.
Furthermore, reports said that ISIS has established its presence in some of Lebanon’s Palestinian Refugees Camps, particularly in “Ain El Helwe” camp near Sidon, where the black flags related to al-Qaeda organization appeared on the balconies, streets and some of Tripoli’s districts. Nevertheless, the presence of such flags linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS is an expression of support and sympathy more than an affiliation or links to these organizations.
The Jihadist organizations in Syria have benefited from the Bekaa’s village of Arsal on the Syrian borders. This village was used as a gateway for the booby-trapped vehicles from Yabroud – Qalamoun area to Lebanon in order to be detonated in Southern Suburb of Beirut (al-Dahyiha) and other Shiite Lebanese areas.
However, some analysts and researchers believe that the ISIS remains weak in Lebanon confirming that it is still under construction, and that there was a haste in declaring its presence after this organization obtained cases of polarization in both Iraq and Syria.
Perhaps the presence of Lebanese militants within the “Islamic State” who are fighting in Syria and Iraq, suggests the formation of organizational network inside Lebanon after they return or through their connections. Media reports published that on July 6, 2014, the Lebanese so-called Abu Hafs has implemented a suicide operation in al-Washash area in the middle of Baghdad for the IS..
Al-Nusra Front linked to al-Qaeda used to be the most popular among “Jihadists” in Lebanon, as “Abdallah Azzam Brigades” operating in Lebanon was considered more affiliated to al-Nusra Front than to “ISIS”. Nevertheless, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was able to attract some of his opponents in al-Nusra Front where some of the factions affiliated with al-Nusra in Deir al-Zourporvinceowedtheir allegiance to Baghdadi, paving the way for him to tighten its control over the most prominent oil wells in the province, after he extended his control over the oil wells of al-Musel in addition to his control over other oil wells.
It is worth recalling that the Lebanese Authorities have announced during the month of January 2014 the arrest of the Saudi Majid al-Majid, leader of “Abdallah Azzam Brigades”, the organization that is responsible of the suicide explosion which targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in November 2013. Majid was requested by the Lebanese authorities since his participation in 2007 confrontations of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp as well as in Ain El Helweh in 2009. Moreover, on May 24, 2012, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.
The scene of the Jihadist black flags in some of Lebanese cities gives impression that Jihadist organizations have self-confidence in declaring their presence in Lebanon giving signals that they have incubating base in this country. Some reports revealed that, currently, the most important and active “Jihadi” groups in Lebanon is the group of “Abu Thaer”, a Lebanese called KhodorKhowayled, this group exist in Wadi Khaled area and include multi nationalities among its ranks. In addition to other groups that established their presence in Tripoli districts, such as Bab al-Tebaneh, Badawi and Bab al-Ramel. These groups used to lead repeated rounds of violence inside Tripoli against Jabal Mohsen, the district which is home of Alawites majority.
The declaration of the formation of a branch for the “Islamic state” in Lebanon reveals that the organization is operatingon the basis ofpenetrating the security apparatus through intelligence work, bribery and corruption more than on the basis of military effortsthat characterized al-Qaeda organization at its leader Ayman al-Zawahery. This means that the “ISIS” reached a stage where it targets the security apparatus from inside or directly through operations of assassination or through delivering threats to the investigation officials and judges.
The Lebanese Security bodies, whether the Lebanese army intelligence or the Information department related to the Internal Security Forces or General Security Division, possess a lot of data and information base on “Salafist-Jihadist” extremist groups operating in Lebanon. This enabled the security apparatus to arrest Majid al-Majid end of 2013 in addition to arresting other individuals responsible of these groups and they had links with the suicide bombs since the summer of 2013. These Security bodies was able, as well, to bring together the locations where the members of these “Jihadi” groups take refuge; although they resort to populated Sunni districts in Lebanese cities and Palestinian refugee camps.
The battle of Arsal
On August 2, 2014, the Lebanese army arrested a leading member of “IS” called Imad Ahmed Jomaa, he was previously a cadre of “Al-Nusra Front” but he owed allegiance to “IS”, after al-Baghdadi announced himself a Calipha on June 10, 2014. Joumaa is from al-Quseir city of Syria, he is considered one of the field commanders in Qalamoun and he led “Liwa’ al Fajr Brigade” before announcing that he joined al-Baghdadi caliphate.
It is said that Ahmed Jomaa was among the members of the first group which was engaged in fighting the Syrian army at the beginning of 2012. He is also accused of being involved in the assassination of Brigadier Salim Attieh, the former Chief of Military Intelligence in September 2012. Jomaa operated first within the ranks of “al-Farouk Brigadier” and then took over a faction in “al-Nusra Front”. Later on Jomaa moved from Qusair to Noaymatmountains, in order to live in Arsal, specifically, in al-Noor Syrian Refugee Camp.
Following the arrest of Jomaa, clashes have erupted in this Lebanese-Syrian bordering area. Consequently, the Lebanese Army checkpoints in Arsal were targeted by the fighters of “ISIS” and “al-Nusra Front” leaving 20 soldiers of the Lebanese Army dead and 42 soldiers as hostages (22 soldiers from the Lebanese Army and 20 members of the ISF). After that, military clashes erupted between the two sides.
However, negotiations between the government and the army command, from one side, and the fighters, from the other side, have begun through Salafist Sheikhs. On August 7, a settlement determining the withdrawal of gunmen from Arsal to its outskirts was approved.
These developments came following the death of tens of “ISIS” and other Jihadist groups in Qlamoun by Hezbollah who managed to tighten its control over “Tallet Moussa” on the Lebanese borders.
The numbers of Syrian and foreign “jihadists” in these outskirts were estimated between 5000 and 12000, as increased number of gunmen have joined “ISIS” recently.
*The Article is a summary of Study for Al-Mesbar Studies and Research Centre -Published in Al-Mesbar Book entitled: "ISIS: Its Ideology, Funding, The Brotherhood".