Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

New Information Revealed About Al-Qaeda Cell Allegedly Involved in the Hariri Murder

This is an important scoop published today by the Lebanese daily Addiyar (February 11, 2006, 18th Year, Issue No. 6182, edited by Charl Ayoub, an ex-officer seen as close to the Syrians). It broadly follows what I discussed here on Talisman Gate a few days ago, although Addiyar fleshes out the skeletal information with names, dates and time-lines. The story carries Simon Abu Fadhil’s byline, and in translating it I have tried to stay as close to the Arabic wording and sentence structure as possible, even though it becomes somewhat of a clunky read.

The chief points revolve around the notion that this group was somehow involved in the Hariri assassination through the association of one of its leaders, Khalid Taha (still at large), with the suspected suicide bomber, Ahmad Tayseer Abu Ades. One of its members is a Syrian neurosurgeon, while others have had fighting experience in Iraq. I think there is more to this story that will begin to be revealed over the course of the next few weeks. My own hypothesis is that this group was just one of four involved in pulling off the Hariri assassination, and their prime task was in picking and handling the suicide bomber, Abu Ades, and preparing the media package of him taking credit for the crime, thus I’d refer to them as the “Spotters and Handlers”. The other groups would have been respectively responsible for information gathering (general data about the Hariri convoy, his security detail, his usual routes…etc), ‘close’ surveillance (these would be the guys with the 6 cell phones tracking Hariri on the day of the assassination), and logistics (these provide safe houses, access to explosives, the stolen vehicle, rigging the car bomb, as well as covering tracks). Given the usual messiness that accompanies such big operations, it is possible that at some points there was overlap between the various groups, such as some of the “Spotters and Handlers” getting a peak at how the car bomb was prepared and where it was stored.

Here are excerpts from the translated text:

It is possible that the operation that led to the assassination of PM Rafiq Al-Hariri is coming into focus with the arrest by Lebanese [security] apparatuses of elements of the Al-Qaeda Organization that has taken a base in Lebanon and specifically in the northern region.

According to parliamentary sources privy to the investigations, the Information Branch (Far’a Al-Ma’aloumat) of the Internal Security Force (Quwa Al-Amn Al-Dakhili) detained on January 13th, 2006 Islamist elements from the Al-Qaeda Organization, after having monitored them for several weeks before the day of arrest, and after they had entered Lebanon illegally from Syria bearing personal documents that have been forged over there, and they escaped to Lebanon after being chased by Syrian security apparatuses.

This information claims that the establishment of this group started according to the following sequence: after the events of Dhiniyyeh that occurred in northern Lebanon and the armed elements on that day over there, leading to the martyrdom of an officer and 11 soldiers, Hassan Muhammad Nab’a (born 1974) fled surreptitiously to Syria, whose job it was to teach religion, and afterwards the “suiciders” pledged their oaths to him as their leader and would seek his blessing before leaving for Afghanistan and then Iraq. After a while of staying in Syria, he was introduced to someone called Jamil from the Homs region, who was an electronics specialist and both of them established—then later with Faisal As’ad Akbar (Saudi)—the nucleus of the Al-Qaeda Organization in Syria. Faisal’s task was to train elements and prepare them for the fighting, while Jamil took charge of security financial resources.

After being chased by Syrian authorities and having one of their network arrested, the rest of this group fled to Lebanon one after the other in mid-2004 to scout areas for residence [bases ?], and the first to arrive was Tariq Raja’ Al-Nassir (Syrian) who is a neurosurgeon that treated Al-Qaeda fighters who has been wounded in Iraq, and he rented an apartment for himself in one of the buildings in Beirut.

Active political entities supplement this information by saying that the other elements followed him to Lebanon with forged Syrian papers and by illegally crossing the border and they widened their activity between the capital Beirut and the north, and they met while staying in Lebanon with ‘Aad Abdullah Hallaq (Palestinian) who is a mechanical and electronic engineer, as well as Hani Hashim Al-Shatti (Jordanian, born 1980) and Ali Turki Al-Rad’a (Syrian) and they formed the nucleus of an Al-Qaeda Organization in the north, and then Malik Muhammad Nab’a, brother of Hassan, would bring suspicious bags to Hani Al-Shatti and to Khalid Taha, who is in hiding after having fled to ‘Ain Al-Hilwa Camp, and no one these persons knew was his comrades were tasked with only in rare cases in the very beginning before they organized their ranks. Muhammad Abdel-Razzak Wafa’i (Syrian), Ma’az Abdel-Ghani Shusha (Syrian, born 1980) and Bara’ Muhammad Fuad Al-Fawa constituted with the rest the group who some of its members were [tasked] with collecting the required logistics as well as the elements and information necessary to prepare to attack American and western targets, at the right times, after monitoring some of them and deciding to launch operations against them.

The information from the aforementioned political entities points out that regarding the issue of the Hariri assassination, this group was arrested before the launching of terrorist acts, and that investigations with them as revealed by the General Prosecutor Judge Sa’id Mirza to several government officials, that Abu Ades who appeared in the tape after the Hariri assassination, used to train with this closed group that consists of 13 members, that also includes Ali Jihad Sharaf-eddin (born 1988) who is a juvenile and a relative of Nab’a.

After the General Prosecutor was shown the investigation by the Information Branch of the Internal Security Force, he concluded that there are suspicions of some role for [this group] in the Hariri assassination, so he asked the Military Judiciary to question them specifically regarding their role in possessing firearms and forming a gang to detract from the respectability of the state, and asking them to leave the investigation into terrorist activities and the Hariri case to the General Prosecutor’s office, and [these sources] also said that Judge Mirza will reveal this matter in a joint press conference with Justice Minister Charl Rizik in the upcoming days and present it to the Central Security Council.

The investigation has widened with the Al-Qaeda members and led to the arrest of six individuals from the town of Burqail one of whom was injured in the fighting in Iraq about two months ago and lost both his legs, and this groups comprises of three Lebanese, and three Palestinians who are involved in the attack of the Prince Bashir barracks, and they possessed a weapons depot in Sidon.

Ministerial sources have revealed that Faisal As’ad Akbar (Saudi citizen) had entered Lebanon with a forged Saudi passport under the name Muhammad Khadhim Al-Yamani, and that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had delegated a security official to extradite him, however, given that there isn’t an extradition treaty between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, the Minister of Justice refused to turn him over, but Judge Mirza and the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon presided over an extradition agreement between the two countries on the same day and was signed by the General Prosecutor, yet Justice Minister Charl Rizik refused to sign off on it so that the investigation does not lose one of its principal elements resulting in a gap. Afterwards, Minister Rizik traveled outside [Lebanon] for three days and when he returned, he did not change his position, prompting the Saudi official to leave without taking Akbar with him…It then became clear to Rizik that Saudi Arabia wants to extricate itself [from this situation] should this group be charged with assassinating PM Hariri.


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