Qatar Red Crescent Funds Syrian Rebel Arms
By: Radwan Mortada
Published Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The Lebanese Army Intelligence has apprehended Mahmoud S., a Jordanian national with ties to radical jihadi groups fighting in Syria. The man has confessed to providing armed groups in Syria with cash and weapons, and admitted to purchasing arms from the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee and then transferring them to groups in Tripoli.
A few days ago in the Lebanese city of Baalbeck, the Lebanese Army Intelligence apprehended a man identified as Mahmoud S., a Jordanian national born in 1970. Mahmoud possessed forged Palestinian refugee documents bearing the name of Ahmed Houjeir.
During his questioning, it emerged that the suspect had been closely involved in financing and supplying weapons to radical Islamist jihadi groups. Investigators were surprised by how quickly he confessed, without any pressure, and even proudly, to engaging in criminal and terrorist acts that would be sufficient to earn him a life sentence in any other country.
The detained man holds a degree in Islamic law and owns contracting companies in Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. He is also the head of Makkiyun, or Meccans, an organization he co-founded with Hussein Hamdan, another Jordanian national. During his interrogation, he also disclosed that he was a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist party that believes in the return of caliphate rule.
Sources in the investigation team said that Mahmoud confessed to receiving around $2.2 million from Khaled Diab, a Qatar Red Crescent official. He was then to hand the money over to a Lebanese cleric identified as O.O., born in 1983 and affiliated with Muslims Without Borders, in the Bekaa village of Bar Elias.
“Through the cleric, Mahmoud was able to acquire 30 RPG launchers for $900,000 and 300 shells for $300,000, which were then transferred to Syria by a smuggler known as Anwar or his nom de guerre Abu Salah.” The smuggler then handed over the weapons to the Syrian national known as Abu Abdullah in the Damascus countryside.
Mahmoud also bought 100 Kalashnikovs and an ammunitions cache for $40,000 from the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon. The source added that Mahmoud entered the refugee camp with the Syrian national Mohammad Abdullah, known as Abu Hamza, under the guise of distributing humanitarian aid to refugees from Syria.
As to how they got through the Lebanese army checkpoints that surround the perimeter of the largest Palestinian camp in Lebanon, informed sources said that it is impossible to search all aid packages sent to the refugees given their sheer number.
“Nearly a month ago, the suspect crossed into Syrian territory from Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, accompanied by five Jordanians. Their trip was to smuggle weapons to aid Syrian opposition fighters,” said the source.
Mahmoud also confessed to taking part in “jihad” in Syria, fighting in the ranks of the Habib al-Mustafa Brigade, which is active in Daraa and Idlib. Mahmoud then returned to Lebanon, bringing weapons into Tripoli to “strengthen the jihadi groups fighting against the allies of the Syrian regime,” as he said.
The suspect mentioned that he had recently paid $50,000 to a known Salafi preacher in Tripoli to help his supporters continue fighting in Bab al-Tabbaneh against Jabal Mohsen.
Mahmoud is of Palestinian origin, and was born in Jordan before moving with his parents to Lebanon in 1974. His family lived in Ruwais in Beirut’s southern suburbs before they relocated to the Aisha Bakkar district in the capital. In 1995, he left Lebanon for the UAE where he worked in the optical equipment business before starting his contracting firm in 2002, branching out to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The suspect said that since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, he vowed to help the rebels as much as possible. Nearly a year and a half ago, he began traveling frequently to Lebanon to distribute humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.
Investigations with Mahmoud are complete, and his case will now be referred to military court where charges will be pressed against him.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.