Terrorists forced to seek foreign recruits for operations in Lebanon

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Lebanese firefighters gather at the bottom of the Duroy hotel where a man blew himself up as security forces stormed his room on June 25, 2014 in the Raoucheh quarter in Beirut. (Photo: AFP-Anwar Amro)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Thursday, June 26, 2014

None of the people involved in security affairs in Lebanon expected an actual end to the wave of terror attacks in the country. But many developments in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq have encouraged the suicide bombers’ handlers to execute new plans, a large part of which seems to have been prepared in haste, requiring recruits from outside Lebanon.

Well-placed sources have noted that as military operations along the Lebanese-Syrian border were moving on to the stage of “cleansing” the remaining pockets of militants who had escaped from the battles in the cities and towns of Qalamoun, armed Syrian factions began to regroup in a way that took into account the fact that most land routes between Syria and Lebanon are now off-limits, while avoiding measures taken by the Lebanese army in many regions, particularly in the border areas in the north and the Bekaa.

According to these sources, a green light was given to a new wave of attacks in Lebanonin order to counter the recent military and intelligence achievements of Hezbollah and the Lebanese army and law enforcement agencies. However, there were gaps in the plan, such as the need for recruits who are different from those used in the previous series of attacks. This prompted the handlers abroad to dispatch foreign operatives to Lebanon, who then deployed separately in various areas according to a plan to escape surveillance.

The same sources say that technical surveillance conducted by international intelligence services uncovered enough information to begin tracking and interception operations by the Lebanese side. The country was put on security alert, with the terrorist groups planning to target security services, and not just in the areas seen as Hezbollah strongholds.

The sources do not deny that Western security agencies have shown serious cooperation, but attribute this enthusiasm to the fact that the agencies in question have for a while been tracking jihadis returning to their countries. This was accompanied by a clear direction among the Takfiri forces behind these jihadis, especially the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its ilk, to expand the scope of their operations outside the Syrian battlefield, and take advantage of the combatants returning to their countries to seek their services there.

The sources believe that the terrorist groups are planning to carry out a significant number of terror attacks in Lebanon to benefit from the momentum of the sectarian agitation that has accompanied the war in Syria, and which was further reinforced by the recent events in Iraq. This is not to mention the fact that Lebanon is a suitable arena, especially since Islamist groups in the country often voice their grievances about being oppressed, meaning that their members are potential recruits for these operations, while the groups themselves can be used for logistical support.

The sources point out that there is no complete picture of what is happening yet, saying that the information and investigation has yet to reveal many unknown issues, most notably the places in which the suicide bombers are using to prepare their gear such as car bombs and suicide belts, and the full extent of the networks running these operations. However, the same sources say there is clear confusion in the terrorists’ work, indicating that some are in a hurry to attack certain targets, something that the sources say has helped intercept the terrorists and thwart some of their planned attacks.

It is worth noting in this regard that coordination and cooperation among various security agencies reflects a political situation that is markedly different from the one that previously prevailed. Furthermore, the Directorate General of General Security is strongly and seriously involved in the effort, while key officers in this agency seem to have become major targets for jihadi groups.

In conclusion, even though many in the government do not want to spread panic, the conduct of the security agencies reflects a state of genuine concern regarding a wave of attacks that may not be possible to fully stop for the time being. However, it is possible to say that the terrorist groups have so far failed to achieve their objectives, whether in reaching their direct targets or creating a climate of fully blown internal tension.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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