A Who’s Who: The Kingpins of the “Islamist Floor” in Roumieh Prison

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Members of the Internal Security Forces monitor the situation in Roumieh prison on January 12, 2015 as security forces aim to dismantle Islamist cells inside the infamous prison. Al-Akhbar/Haitham Moussawi

By: Mohamed Nazzal

Published Tuesday, January 13, 2015

In light of the Internal Security Forces’ raid on Roumieh prison on Monday, which authorities say was aimed at finding those responsible for two suicide bombing that struck Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen neighborhood on Saturday, Al-Akhbar has complied a basic profile of the main influential leaders of various Islamist organizations holed up in the prison’s notorious “Islamist floor” of Building B.

These ‘kingpins’ are:

Jamal Daftardar

Daftardar was arrested by the Army Intelligence early last year. He confessed at the military court to being the “religious” leader (ideological preacher) of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Lebanon. Daftardar is a Lebanese citizen from Tripoli. An arrest warrant was issued for him in 2007 in connection with the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp events (as part of the Fatah al-Islam file). He is accused of involvement in planning the double suicide bomb attacks that targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut in November 2013. He was one of the assistants to a Saudi commander of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Majid al-Majid. Daftardar is also accused of plotting the attack on the Lebanese army checkpoint at al-Awali bridge north of the city of Saida in December 2013.

Naeem Abbas

Abbas, also known as “Abu Ismail,” was involved in the launching of rockets that landed in the southern suburbs of Beirut. He facilitated the entry of the booby-trapped car that exploded in the area of Bir al-Abed, and the transfer of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up in al-Arid Street in two separate attacks. He was akin to a “professional killer.” He worked for “ISIS,” al-Nusra Front, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades at various times. He was active in Syria before operating in Lebanon, and was linked to the car bomb that exploded in Ruwais in the southern suburbs in August 2013. He was in charge of preparing suicide bombers, including the one who blew himself up inside a van on the main road to the area of Choueifat in February 2014. He was arrested in an apartment in the area of Tariq Jdideh in Beirut, where he was planning more bombings. He instantly revealed the location of a bomb parked near the place of his arrest.

Omar al-Atrash

Sheikh Omar al-Atrash’s name is registered at the Dar al-Fatwa. Atrash was the transporter of booby-trapped cars and provider of fake license plates. He also used to transfer militants between Syria and Lebanon. He worked with “ISIS,” al-Nusra Front, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. He hails from the Bekaa town of Ersal. He was captured in an ambush by the Lebanese army. He admitted involvement in the transfer of suicide bombers and providing guidance to them, and being in direct contact with the militant groups responsible for the suicide bombings in the southern suburbs and the Bekaa area of Hermel. His arrest was widely criticized considering his status as sheikh, but the protests soon receded when he was proven guilty.

Abu Obeida

Bilal Khodor Ibrahim, also known as Abu Ubaidah, is a Fatah al-Islam member held at Roumieh prison. He was notorious for managing the “Islamist floor” in Building B in Roumieh prison in the past few years. He was sued while in prison on charge of intentionally killing a prisoner with the help of other prisoners. His role in prison was similar to that of a “mutawa” — or the Islamic religious police, also known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia — and he used to “oppress” any prisoner who did not follow the instructions and guidelines, even inmates who are not part of Fatah al-Islam.

Abu Turab

Few knew his real name. He was known by the nickname “Abu Turab.” Alongside Abu Obeida, he played the role of “mutawa” inside the prison. He is Yemeni, and his real name is Salim Saleh. He was notorious for his extreme violence towards the other prisoners, and was also sued on charges of killing an inmate as a kind of “legal punishment.” He is among the Fatah al-Islam prisoners arrested in the Nahr al-Bared case.

Abu al-Walid

He sometimes acts as the group’s media face, and at other times as the leader of the Islamist prisoners in Roumieh prison. He used to negotiate on their behalf with the authorities when protests, riots, or disobedience took place. He wears a robe and constantly carries a rosary. His real name is Mohammed Yousuf (or Khalid Milki). It is said that he acted as the representative of the Islamists in Roumieh prison to divert attention away from the actual commander, or the main sheikh inside the prison. A rumor once circulated among the Islamist prisoners that Abu al-Walid had contacts with prominent political figures in Lebanon, from inside and outside the government, which is why he was able to provide a lot of services to these prisoners.

Abu Salim Taha

Abu Salim Taha, whose real name is Mohammed Saleh Zawawi, is a Fatah al-Islam prisoner. He is prominent figure in Fatah al-Islam and was given the death sentence. According to the court verdict issued by the Judicial Council, Taha is “one of the figures who headed the group and held a leading position in it with the intent to attack sensitive institutions within the Lebanese state, specifically the Lebanese army. In addition to fieldwork, his role involved inciting the group’s members to carry out killings, bombings, theft, fighting the army, and weakening the state.

Hossam al-Sabbagh

Sabbagh is a prominent face in Tripoli and known as “Hajj Abu Hassan.” His name was associated with al-Qaeda and he was believed to be its emir in the North. However, these allegations were not substantiated by the security investigations. If he is to be compared to the other prisoners, he would rank last in terms of the threat he poses. He reportedly leads a group comprising about 300 militants. He was stopped at a Lebanese Army checkpoint and later transferred to the Ministry of Defense in the absence of any significant reactions.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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