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Security Agencies on Alert to Confront ISIS Project to Turn Lebanon into ‘Alternate’ Front | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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File photo shows a Lebanese army soldier manning a checkpoint at the entrance to Arsal. (AFP)

Beirut – Lebanese security forces have been on alert for months in anticipation of a possible ISIS plan to find “alternate fields” for its operations in the region after the collapse of its forces in Iraq and Syria.

To that end, Lebanese authorities have been cooperating with international intelligence, especially the United States, in order to bolster the Lebanese army’s efforts to deter any terrorist infiltration across the border from Syria.

It is standing in the way of terrorist attempts to flee the region from Syria to Beirut and later the Mediterranean. The military is also countering any possible efforts by the terrorists to carry out revenge attacks in Lebanon.

The security forces have for a while been relying on “preemptive operations” that have proven their success in thwarting several terror plots. The latest of these achievements was the arrest of two ISIS networks about a month ago.

Security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the operation, which was carried out by the army in the northeastern border area of Arsal, “created waves on the international scene.”

They said that the several international powers hailed the “high professionalism of the army and its ability to thwart the impact of five suicide attacks in one operation and in one day.”

No civilian or soldier was killed in the attack that was carried out in Arsal in Friday.

Security experts said that a number of factors have led to the success of the Lebanese security forces that have already made several accomplishments in the country’s fight against terrorism.

These factors have enable the security forces to surpass western ones in thwarting terrorism.

Retired General Mohammed Rammal said that the Lebanese security forces’ constant state of readiness and their significant coordination among their various branches, have contributed to their success.

The current unified stance of politicians against terrorism has also fortified Lebanon against external threats, he explained to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Furthermore, the joint international intelligence cooperation has also played a role in Lebanon’s success, he said.

Given the defeats in Iraq and Syria, it is only natural for the terrorists to consider Lebanon as an alternate location due to the high number of refugees the country is hosting, Rammal went on to say.

The Palestinian refugee camps that lie outside the official authorities’ jurisdiction are another factor that attracts terrorists, he warned.

“Despite the security efforts, the terrorist threat remains. The only difference is that the Lebanese forces have switched the roles from ones receiving the blows to ones dealing them,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian factions inside refugee camps have met the Lebanese security forces halfway by handing over a few days ago a fugitive, who has been wanted by Lebanese authorities.

Khaled Masaad, known as Khaled al-Sayyed, was handed to the authorities from the refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in the South.

The suspect is accused of cooperating with the two ISIS networks that were detained in June.

His arrest by the Usbat al-Ansar group was met with condemnation by extremist factions inside Ain el-Hilweh, but the local powers have been able to prevent the tensions from escalating into violence.

Fatah commander Munir al-Maqdah described the situation in the volatile camp as “calm.”

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Sayyed was at the top of the Lebanese authorities’ wanted list and his arrest was a priority for the factions. They made sure to arrest him promptly to avoid his presence from fueling more tensions in the camp.

“Intense efforts are being exerted in order to preserve the security in the camp and the Lebanese areas. We are also tackling a number of files linked to wanted suspects,” he added.

Head of the General Security Abbas Ibrahim had been the main Lebanese coordinator with Palestinian factions in al-Sayyed’s file, underlining to them in mid-June, the need to apprehend him because he was the “mastermind” in a foiled major terror plot in the holy month of Ramadan.

“The Ramadan operation was the first time that an explosives belt came out of Ain el-Hilweh. This is why al-Sayyed’s arrest was important in that similar operations will be thwarted in the future, especially since, to our knowledge, the detainee possessed more than one such belt,” added Ibrahim.

Security agencies in Ramadan arrested a number of terrorists, who were plotting to target a number of locations in Lebanon.