Amid Hammoud: An Officer Defying the State
By: Radwan Mortada
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Amid Hammoud, a retired Lebanese Army colonel, has emerged as the driving force behind some of the country’s major security violations over the past few years. From arms smuggling to the recruitment and training of extremist Sunni fighters, Lebanese military intelligence and the Internal Security Forces have singled out Hammoud for his role in a litany of crimes against the state.
Security sources told Al-Akhbar that Hammoud is motivated by his desire to create a Sunni militia based on the Hezbollah model. The colonel has amassed weapons and organized fighters in the northern city of Tripoli where he is also implicated in the internecine clashes between residents of the Bab al-Tabaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods.
A security report, one of dozens that center on Hammoud, claims that he is “responsible for recruiting young men to fight in North Lebanon, and some in Syria, and provides them with arms,” adding that young men under Hammoud’s command are also “participating in all the clashes occurring in Tripoli.” The report goes on to identify Hammoud’s address as a heavily guarded villa in Qalamoun in North Lebanon, as well as a rented office used for weapons storage.
The name Hammoud is seemingly omnipresent, repeated whenever there is a security escalation, especially in the North. When an arms depot blew up in the Tripoli neighborhood of Abi Samra this February, Hammoud was the primary suspect.
A week ago, Hammoud decided to relocate his activities to the capital. Sources maintain that the backbone of the armed groups currently deployed in Beirut are those under Hammoud’s command. These groups, composed of Syrian, Palestinian, and Lebanese fighters, are concentrated in the vicinity of the meat market and Salaheddine mosque in Tariq al-Jdideh.
Al-Akhbar also obtained information indicating that some of the same fighters had battled Syrian government troops in Homs and Rif al-Qusair. It would appear that Hammoud has expanded operations over the border, becoming heavily involved in the recruitment, training, and support of those fighting the Syrian government and army.
Recently, his name appeared in a video depicting members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) executing Waild al-Bustani, a member of Fatah al-Islam. The latter had fled Roumieh prison in Lebanon several months before, only to resurface in another video that preceded his execution at the hands of Syrian rebels.
In the recording, Bustani tells the armed men, “Amid Hammoud sent you to kill me.”
The clip also alludes to a financial dispute between Hammoud and members of the Syrian opposition who accuse him of “stealing the revolution’s money,” along with someone called Abu Karmo. This wouldn’t be the first mention of Abu Karmo.
In the corridors of security agencies, it is said that Hammoud travelled between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Libya to coordinate the Lutfallah 2 arms shipment. Abu Karmo is mentioned in the minutes of investigations conducted by army intelligence into the Lutfallah 2 arms shipment case, named as one of the people in charge of transporting the arms to the ship.
Even with the surmounting evidence, not one security agency has yet dared to arrest Hammoud or even summon him for interrogation. When pressed, security officials sidestepped the issue, pinning blame instead on the political and religious leaders who provide Hammoud with cover.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.