Lebanon: Casinos and Hotels Targets for Suicide Bombers

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Le Royal Hotel and Casino in Dbayeh. Al-Akhbar/Bilal Jawish

By: Radwan Mortada, Amal Khalil

Published Friday, January 23, 2015

According to security reports, the Casino du Liban and the Le Royal Hotel in Dbayeh were among the list of prospective targets for suicide bombings. Meanwhile, a deal has been reached among Palestinian factions to apprehend wanted fugitive Shadi Mawlawi in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, “in the same way he had entered it.”

Investigations conducted by the army, under the supervision of the military judiciary, into members of the suicide bombers cell (Elie Warraq, Qassim Taljeh, Bassam al-Naboush, Abdul-Qadir Abdul-Fattah, and others) have revealed that the detainees were allegedly preparing to target “Christian establishments,” specifically Casino du Lebanon in Jounieh, and Le Royal Hotel and Casino in Dbayeh.

According to the security reports, the detainees are linked to the detained Mahmoud Abu Abbas, who was in charge of transporting Saja al-Dulaimi and other aspiring suicide bombers. Some of the detainees were also in contact with the Abdullah Azzam Brigades spokesman, Sheikh Sirajuddin Zureikat, and the fugitive Shadi al-Mawlawi, who is affiliated to al-Nusra Front in the Qalamoun region.

The detainees stated that cars were rigged with explosives in the hills near Ersal and in Qalamoun, and then driven to the Lebanese interior. According to security sources, quoting the confessions of the detainees, members of the cell had helped transport the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks in Dahr al-Baidar and Tayouneh.

The intended targets of the suicide bombers cell, in order of importance they ascribed to them: Shia and Alawi locations, Lebanese army positions and checkpoints, and Christian locations (the targeting of which would hurt tourism in Lebanon). The sources said that the investigations show there is coordination between al-Nusra Front and Abdullah Azzam Brigades on these suicide operations.

Al-Manar TV, meanwhile, reported that Warraq had confessed to travelling to Syria where he received training at al-Nusra Front camps. Warraq told interrogators there was a plan to attack army checkpoints and positions in Dinniyeh, and that he had also taken part in planting IEDs targeting the army. The report said that the wanted fugitive Osama Mansour asked his group to go to Ain al-Hilweh for training, and that Warraq intended to blow himself up in Tripoli. Warraq also confessed that Mansour told his group he was planning suicide attacks in Dahiyeh, but they were postponed.

The sources noted that Abdel-Fattah confessed that he had fought in Bab al-Tabbaneh, and that he had returned to Tripoli to carry out a suicide attack on an army intelligence station at Mansour’s request.

In the same vein, on Thursday afternoon, the army was able to defuse a car bomb in Ain al-Shaab, near the western entrance of Arsal. The car was a black Kia Rio, and was found to be laden with more than 20 kg of explosives connected to a armed mortar shell.

The army also killed two terrorists from a group that, at night, had tried to infiltrate army positions between Wadi Hosn and Wadi Hammid in the hills near Ersal. In turn, PFLP-GC fighters opened fire from their positions in the Qusaya highlands, firing artillery shells at two militant vehicles trying to advance into Lebanese territory from the Amer Farms region.

Solution found to the Mawlawi dilemma in Ain al-Hilweh

On the other hand, Palestinian leaders in Ain al-Hilweh agreed on a solution to the predicament that the refugee camp found itself in over the presence of a terrorist suspect wanted by Lebanese authorities: fugitive Shadi Mawlawi, they agreed, must leave the camp, without the Palestinian factions being responsible for handing him over to the Lebanese authorities.

The solution does not satisfy the Lebanese government and security agencies, but it does help the camp defuse the crisis, as its residents are torn between bitterly rivaling factions. The solution was reached at a meeting chaired by Azzam al-Ahmed, Fatah leader in Lebanon, at the Palestinian embassy, attended by representatives from the national and Islamist factions that make up the Supreme Security Committee in the camp.

This summit follows another meeting held by Ahmed on Wednesday with Palestinian factions, before he led a Palestinian delegation to talks with Speaker Nabih Berri and DGSG Director-General Abbas Ibrahim. Today, Ahmed is set to meet with Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who has stated publically that there is a “terrorist war room” in Ain al-Hilweh.

Usbat al-Ansar leader Sheikh Abu Tarik al-Saadi was one of the most notable participants at the meeting on Thursday. The man insisted on attending personally to present his group’s point of view of the Lebanese government’s demand for the handover of fugitives.

Saadi, the group’s spokesman Abu Sharif Akl, and former leader of Usbat al-Ansar Abu Mohjen have been meeting with Islamist and tribal leaders in the camp for more than two months, to stress the need to keep Ain al-Hilweh neutral vis-a-vis Lebanese and regional conflicts. They are concerned for the fate of more than 100,000 refugees who would have nowhere to go from Ain al-Hilweh.

The three men have argued extensively that any battle with the Lebanese government would be a losing one. They have shown some leniency with so-called Islamist youths, or the faction that includes the remnants of Jund al-Sham, Fatah al-Islam, and Abdullah Azzam Brigades, as long as they are from the camp’s “fabric,” but stress that “strangers will be shown no leniency.” Mawlawi happens to be one of those “strangers.”

Informed sources say that Usbat al-Ansar pledged to work to get Mawlawi out of the camp, but insisted that there would be no talks over the list presented by the Lebanese government, which includes more than 100 wanted fugitives, most of whom are residents of the camp, as this could lead to strife. The sources said Usbat al-Ansar pledges that these wanted individuals will “remain under control.”

What about Osama Mansour? Usbat al-Ansar does not endorse him, the sources said, “because his presence there has not been proven.”

But would Mawlawi agree to cooperate with Usbat al-Ansar? The sources said, “Usbat al-Ansar is confident he would agree to leave,” bearing in mind that the group does not communicate with him directly, but through a mediator.

So how would he leave, and to where, since he is wanted by Lebanon? The sources said, “Shadi can leave just like he entered, secretly, to wherever he wants. After that it is not our problem. We would have kept him out of the camp, and it would depend on the government and its ability to apprehend him.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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