The CIA: Al-Qaeda Dispatched 16 Tons of Explosives to Lebanon

The American side claimed to have credible information that an al-Qaeda-linked group rigged two large trucks with up to seven tons of explosives each for detonation in Dahiyeh. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Hassan Illeik

Published Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nearly a week before the July 9 bombing in Beirut’s southern suburb of Bir al-Abed, the Lebanese security services received tip-offs from their US counterparts indicating that al-Qaeda had prepared two large explosive devices for detonation in Dahiyeh, in parallel with plans by the terrorist group to target officials in Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, as well as diplomats from the Gulf, Russia, and China.

Investigations into the explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday continue in great secrecy, with a tight lid being kept on their findings so far. However, officials confirmed that serious leads are being pursued in the attempt to identify the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, reports circulating in security and political circles hold that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had informed the Lebanese authorities of large quantities of explosives brought into Lebanon by an al-Qaeda-linked group.

Well-placed security and political sources said that the American tip came at the beginning of last week, when the chief of the CIA station in Beirut, to the surprise of the main Lebanese security services (e.g. Army Intelligence, Information Branch, and General Security), handed the latter reports containing extremely sensitive information.

In the first report, the American side claimed to have credible information that an al-Qaeda-linked group rigged two large trucks with up to seven tons of explosives each for detonation in Dahiyeh. The sources said that the CIA supplied additional information on the masterminds behind the plot, which involves suicide bombers and the attack being given the green light by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group operating in Syria.

The second report is no less grave than the first. According to intelligence obtained by the CIA, another group with ties to al-Qaeda brought around 2,000 kg of explosives into Lebanon to use them in attacks against the Lebanese army, Hezbollah, and the Saudi and Kuwaiti ambassadors in Beirut, and possibly diplomats from Russia and China.

The third report contains detailed information on the group responsible for firing rockets from inside Syrian territory toward the Baalbeck area. The US report identified the leader of this group by name, and also provided other data, including his phone numbers.

Upon checking this information, it emerged that the person named by the US report is a Syrian national who leads an armed battalion in the western Damascus countryside, and who had previously been active in North Lebanon. According to the same report, this militant leader is seeking to obtain 500 rockets for use against the city of Baalbeck and its surroundings.

A meeting was held last Thursday at Baabda palace to discuss the reports. The meeting was chaired by President Michel Suleiman, and attended by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati; Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn; Interior Minister Marwan Charbel; Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui; Director-General of State Security George Qaraa; Director of Army Intelligence Edmond Fadel; acting director general of the Internal Security Forces Ibrahim Basbous; Head of Information Imad Othman; and the president’s military adviser Abdul-Muttalib al-Henawi.

Interestingly, the senior security leaders chose not to share all the information in their possession with the political leaders, focusing instead on the need to obtain communication data from the telecom ministry. There were also calls at the meeting for banning the use of mobile phones by prisoners being held in Roumieh.

This request came after security services intercepted calls between a radical Islamic prisoner (likely from a Gulf country) and another yet unknown individual, mentioning a seven-ton explosive charge, without discussing its source or destination. The security services could not record these conversations in full, as part of them took place though sophisticated software that the Lebanese agency does not have the ability to process.

However, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel refused to ban mobile phones among the prisoners, saying that such a move would cause riots.

Security officials told Al-Akhbar that the Lebanese authorities are taking the “terrifying” US information very seriously, while the American side pledged to relay any additional information that surfaces. According to security officials, the telecom data will be crucial to investigations, noting that there are several important leads that can only be pursued through this data.

The officials also underscored the need to take urgent measures at Roumieh, if not to ban mobile phones, then at the very least to block Internet services.


Why Has Washington Spoken?

After the US intel was conveyed to the Lebanese side, there were extensive discussions as to why the CIA would supply local security services with information involving plots against Hezbollah.

Security leaders have come to the following conclusions: One, the US intel does not exclusively involve Hezbollah as the target of possible hostilities, but also involves the Lebanese army and diplomats from countries allied to Washington. Two, the fact that the Americans have shared this intel could only mean that Washington remains committed to stability in Lebanon, at least for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, some security officials are of the opinion that the US also wanted to convey a message to Hezbollah, namely, that Washington has nothing to do with any possible attacks targeting the resistance party, in order to protect its interests in Lebanon and the region against any Hezbollah response to attacks by unknown assailants.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

The above comment was directed at Rowan Berkeley and not at "Bush the Liberator". My sincere apologies to that person. Thank you for allowing me to clarify the comment originally made by Rowan Berkeley

"...US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had informed the Lebanese authorities of large quantities of explosives brought into Lebanon by an al-Qaeda-linked group."

So, the CIA informed itself! Right?

I thought this kind of stupidity one can find only in NYT or WaPo and the like outlets. Is this article paid by the U.S. Gov.? It appears they is in Damage Control Mode, they (US) are trying to mitigate a damage caused by its disastrous policy in Syria, i.e. they acknowledged defeat. Now they engage themselves in PR bullshit like this one!

I feel sorry for that nice girl. She has to go to shopping by foot or taxi.

I think I've made a mistake in my comment above, which may cause some head-scratching by al-Akhbar readers. What I meant was that, the way I see it, Israel's veto over US covert use of Jihadis only really covers Israel's immediate neighbours, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and by extension, Turkey and maybe Iraq and Sudan and other parts of north Africa -- ie, places from which real Jihadis (as opposed to phony, CIA- or Mukhabarat-controlled ones) might easily start attacking Jewish targets, and/or Israel itself. But for some reason, I started pedantically trying to list all the other regions in the world where I don't imagine Israel has this veto, and inexplicably I ended up saying that Israel had a veto on such activity in 'central and South America'. I don't think that's what I meant, unless I had some intricate calculation in mind that I've now forgotten. So sorry about that.

I'd like to put forward the suggestion, for which I have no direct evidence, that the Army coup in Egypt was not conducted at the behest of the US but of Israel, which ever since 9/11 appears to have held a power of veto over all US covert activity in the middle East and central and south America (though not in Africa, the Indian subcontinent or south-east Asia). The Israelis regard the Morsi-supported build-up of well-armed Jihadis in the Sinai as having crossed the proverbial red line. This, according to my hypothesis, has led to a functional cut-off of all US support for Jihadi groups in the region, including in Lebanon. There are elements in the CIA which are refusing to observe this cut-off, at least rhetorically, but the Israeli veto is the decisive factor. This explains the contradictory appearance of US policy at the moment. Clearly, the Israelis have no confidence whatever in the US's ability to distinguish between "moderate" and "extreme" Jihadi elements, and this is especially obvious in relation to Syria. Thus, Congress has blocked Obama's funding program, which is a face-saving way to stop it, without forcing Obama to publicly contradict himself. Similarly in the UK, Parliament is blocking Cameron's funding plans. This would be a logical way of implementing the peremptory Israeli veto immediately, with minimum controversy or fuss. And it would explain the information from the CIA regarding Jihadi plans in Lebanon.

If correct, " 16 tons " minus ( ? ) 500 lbs > >> more to come!

I cannot help but laugh at this persons comments. It is evident that if someone you hate gets into a fight and gets beaten up, the outcome of it would of course make you happy to see your foe with a black eye and/or a bruise lip. But that would not mean that you paid or you had arranged with a third party to beat up those you hate. This is what 'bush-the-liberator' is trying to make us believe. Israel did not start the Arab Spring is Syria. There's no doubt that its is happy that for once they are not involved with the death of 100,000 plus Syrians. Like I said, Israel is happy that they are not part of this genocide, but by the same token, Israel did not pay nor sign a contract with the Syrian Liberation Army or anyone else to ouster Assad. It is these types of misleading propaganda, that has paralysed the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Misleading information by those much like 'bush-the-liberator' in national commentaries is what has stalled the economic progress of Palestinians since the days of Arafat. I urge all Palestinians to think positively and take a stand against people like 'bush-the-liberator' who have no interest in seeing Palestine prosper whose only objective is make sure that hatred in the Arab world remains alive and well against Israel. If the hatred remains economic prosperity for Palestinians will equally remain the ways it stands now and has always been. This is very sad indeed..

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