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Syria and Hezbollah Backing Salafist Groups in Northern Lebanon- Security Source | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Following the bombings and violent disorder seen in the northern town of Tripoli and the recent wave of prison break-out attempts from the Roumieh prison, concerns are being raised over the current governmental vacuum and its affect on the current security situation in Lebanon

Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to a high-ranking Lebanese security source who revealed that “there are no worries with regards to civil peace at the current stage, and there is no information that this is under threat.” The source added “the problem is in the politics. If the political official agreed [to form a government] this worrying atmosphere would come to an end. If they disagree, talk about sedition, destruction, and explosions increases; however this is not the case in reality.”

Speaking about the violence that the Lebanese city of Tripoli has recently witnessed, the security source said “the series of nightly grenade attacks in the Jabal Mohsen area of Tripoli is not carried out by those outside the region, but from within.”

The high-ranking Lebanese source added “It is known that Syria and Hezbollah have allies in some parties who follow the Islamist Salafist trend in Tripoli. They support them with money and weapons. It seems that some of this support [initially] did not reach everybody for one reason or another, and following the death of one of the [Salafist group] leaders…this support began to reach them in a more direct and clear way. This improved the condition of the groups, which naturally drew attention to them. And so the specialist security force immediately took stock of the situation, and undertook raids on some of their weapons cache.”

The source revealed that the link between the Salafist groups and Hezbollah was discovered after the Lebanese security force raided a house belonging to a Salafist group member with ties to Hezbollah and discovered a weapons cache.

Speaking about Hezbollah providing these groups with weaponry, the Lebanese security source also told Asharq Al-Awsat “The Lebanese security forces, from the army to the internal security apparatus, are in control of the situation. This is why they have separated the Beddawi Palestinian Refugee Camp and Jabal Mohsen. They have set up in position between these two areas in order to monitor any suspicious activity or attempts to transfer arms.”

The source also denied that there was any threat to Tripoli saying “There is no threat to civil peace if the situation remains as it is in Tripoli because there is solid cooperation between the region’s officials and leaders, particularly the Grand Mufti of the North, Sheikh Malek al-Shaar. In short, the measures undertaken by the security forces are good, and the people of Tripoli have expressed their satisfaction with the steps that have been taken.”

The recent foiled breakout attempt from Roumieh prison by members of the Fatah al-Islam group saw only Taha Hajj al-Suleiman escape, with the other seven Fatah members being caught before they could get over the wall. Al-Suleiman was recaptured less than a day later by Lebanese authorities. Speaking of the investigation into this incident, the source told Asharq Al-Awsat “the suspect, Taha Hajj al-Suleiman, is a member of Fatah al-Islam…but he did not give up any information or implicate any of his accomplices. He also attempted to mislead the investigation by giving up names of security personnel who had nothing to do with him obtaining a cell phone whilst inside prison, but rather this was an attempt at gaining payback, as was later revealed. The investigation had difficulty in getting information from him, and particularly looked at where he was heading once he fled prison, and who facilitated his escape. The investigation also arrested an individual from the Beqaa town of Arsal who was supposed to meet with the escapees and provide them with aid. The investigation is still ongoing.”

As for the information that Fatah al-Islam prisoners are given preferential treatment and enjoy freedom of movement in Roumieh prison, the security source told Asharq Al-Awsat “it is not true that religious figures intercede on their behalf [to secure this], things are focused only on the humanitarian aspect…religious figures say that those who commit terrorist activities should be subject to the law and punished.”

Speaking about information about assassination plots against official figures, the source revealed “around one month ago the authorities arrested a network of ten individuals who belong to Fatah al-Islam who were in possession of Hungarian passports and Greek telephone numbers. After questioning them, the authorities received unconfirmed information about plans to booby-trap a UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] truck which would be detonated close to the headquarters of the Phalange Party whilst MP Samy Gemayel was present. The Lebanese authorities warned Gemayel of this treat and provided him with the necessary protection.”

As for the illegal internet and tele-communication station that has been set up in Barouk, the source told Asharq Al-Awsat that “powerful financials protected by political authorities linked to the opposition and the pro-government forces” are benefiting from it.

The source added that there is no evidence that this company has any ties to Israel, and that the company’s equipment can be traced back to a European company. The source clarified that Israel does not need to use such a station for spying on Lebanon as it has the ability to do so from Cyprus, or with Wi-Fi equipment through satellites.