French Researcher Denied Entry to Lebanon over Alleged Jihadist Ties

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Published Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lebanese authorities have denied entry to the country to a French expert on jihadists, accusing him of links to extremist groups, diplomatic and security sources said Tuesday.

Romain Caillet, a researcher with the French Institute for the Near East (IFPO) who has been based in Lebanon for five years, is a specialist on jihadist movements including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which captured large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

A French embassy source said Caillet was "turned away on Sunday... at Beirut airport” when he tried to return from a trip to Morocco.

"No explanation of the reason for his expulsion has been provided to us," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A high-ranking source at Lebanon's general security agency said Caillet was suspected of involvement with extremists.

"Under the cover of his work, this individual was suspected of being linked with terrorist organizations," the source aid.

Caillet could not be immediately reached for comment. But on his Twitter account Tuesday he suggested Lebanon's resistance movement Hezbollah was responsible.

"What do they accuse me of? Daring to speak of the influence of Hezbollah and its pro-Iranian allies on all of Lebanon's institutions," he wrote.

"The murderers of researcher Michel Seurat and Rafiq Hariri wanted me to leave Lebanon so my work will continue elsewhere."

Seurat, a sociologist, was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1985 and died in captivity. His abduction was claimed by the Islamic Jihad group.

Five members of Hezbollah are being prosecuted by an international tribunal for allegedly assassinating Hariri, a former prime minister who was killed in a Beirut bomb blast in 2005. Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any involvement in the assassination.

Lebanon has seen a number of clashes and explosions linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Last month, violent clashes erupted overnight between the Lebanese army and unidentified militants along the border with Syria and left three Lebanese soldiers injured.

In recent months, the Lebanese army has fought several battles against jihadists crossing in from across the restive border with Syria.

The deadliest battle took place last August in the border town of Ersal with jihadists of ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, al-Nusra Front, leaving 16 soldiers dead and 85 wounded, while dozens of jihadists are said to have been killed, along with three civilians.

Islamist militants withdrew from the town to its outskirts, taking with them 25 captive Lebanese soldiers and policemen, four of whom they have since executed.

In October, Lebanese troops fought deadly clashes with ISIS and Nusra jihadists in the northern city of Tripoli.

The fighting left 42 people dead, including 11 soldiers and eight civilians.

Moreover, Lebanon has been monitoring those seeking to enter the country amid fears that jihadists are hoping to reach Syria through the Lebanese border.

A map by The Washington Post tracking the flow of foreigners traveling to Syria revealed that an estimated 15,000 militants from at least 80 countries are believed to have entered Syria to join units that are now part of ISIS.

According to the map, Lebanon, with a population of four million, is the fifth biggest provider of fighters, with 890 Lebanese jihadists fighting in Syria.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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