Lebanon News

Extremists ‘flocking to Ain al-Hilweh’

File - Palestinian gunmen walk at the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

Fundamentalist groups have been flooding the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh for the last month, according to a security report acquired by The Daily Star.

Chechen, Egyptian, Tunisian and Syrian members have joined the Ziad Jarrah Brigades, which is part of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, and Jund al-Sham, the report said, adding that the groups were stationed in the camp’s Tawareq neighborhood.

The report said the Lebanese security forces had received information that these groups entered the country through the border town of Arsal and with the help of a Palestinian official identified as Mahmoud Mohammad S., who is believed to be the top coordinator of activities for such fundamentalist groups.

The document also named three men whose movements security officials are following: Ahmad Riyad G., Khatib M. and Jomaa M., all of whom it said were assisting Mahmoud S.

These three men, according to the report, were planning terrorist attacks targeting diplomatic, military and security institutions in coordination with cells from Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam. The attacks were alleged to be orchestrated through a Palestinian man called Bilal B., who is believed to be one of the most dangerous officials in Ain al-Hilweh’s Jund al-Sham movement. Palestinian Toufic Taha, known as Abu Mohammad, from Fatah al-Islam is believed to be his assistant.

The Security Forces are following up on information they received concerning potential attacks against the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, the report said.

According to sources, an unnamed Arab intelligence department told a Lebanese security body that Palestinian Hashem Mahmoud Sh. last week received financial aid from an Al-Qaeda terrorist group, money that was meant to revive dormant cells loyal to the group and form other bodies that could stage attacks in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli.

The well-informed sources told The Daily Star that the deteriorating situation in Ain al-Hilweh had reached a new peak, with regional, local and sectarian circumstances further encouraging terrorist groups there to act.

According to the sources, security officials have received warnings from foreign bodies about the possibility of confrontations between the Army and fundamentalist groups in the camp. Omar al-Atrash’s revelations have further impressed upon national Security Forces that the permeation of fundamentalist groups inside the camp is no longer tolerable.

Atrash confessed to delivering explosive-rigged cars and belts as well as men who could potentially serve as suicide bombers to Naim Abbas, who is believed to be hiding in Ain al-Hilweh. Abbas was initially a member of the Islamic Jihad movement and now lives in the Hittin neighborhood. He rarely makes his presence known but regularly holds meetings with Taha. Both are wanted for targeting the Army and UNIFIL as well as launching rockets at Israel.

Fadel Shaker, the singer turned militant, is believed to have lived for recently in the Taamir district. No one has seen him since Ramadan.

The sources added that the situation in Sidon was deteriorating to the extent that religious and political parties in the city had held meetings to discuss steps that should be taken.

Palestinian factions inside the camp have also been exerting their utmost efforts to keep the security situation under control, the sources said, pointing out that Fatah’s top official for Lebanon Azzam al-Ahmad would be visiting the country soon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 08, 2014, on page 2.




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