BEIRUT: A large number of jihadists from Syrian extremist groups have recently made their way into Lebanon, particularly into Palestinian refugee camps in the south, according to security reports.
The Lebanese security services have received reports from Palestinian security officials about an influx of a large number of fighters from the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) to the Palestinian refugee camps of Ain al-Hilweh and Rashidieh in southern Lebanon, where the new arrivals were joining active extremist groups and cells.
ISIS and the Nusra Front have been heavily involved in the war in neighboring Syria against President Bashar Assad’s regime. The extent to which the opposition has fractured, however, has meant they have also been pitted against each other.
All of this bodes ill for the camps. Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest camp, has witnessed a series of violent incidents and confrontations recently. Officials have responded by establishing a new, elite security force to police the area, restore calm and prevent any further escalation.
The security services expect that the camp will descend into further violence, especially following the appearance in Lebanon of Nusra Front notable leaders, who move around both within the camp and outside of it, particularly in the Bekaa Valley.
Lebanese security forces are monitoring Syrian national Mohammad Ammar T., 46, who is from the Hama province and is known as “Abu Msayyem,” and Fouad A.A., 44, a Syrian national from Damascus. Both regularly make trips to the Lebanese border town of Arsal in east Lebanon, which is known for its strong support for Syrian rebels and houses many of their families.
Sources following up on the issue said they feared an eruption of clashes between the Lebanese Army and remnants of rebels who fled the Syrian town of Yabroud and its surrounding areas – following the victory of the regime and Hezbollah there – to take refuge in Arsal, specifically in Wadi Ajram.
According to the security information, the newly formed Saifullah group, members of whom have recently made their way to Lebanon, is composed of different nationalities, including Syrians, Egyptians and Palestinians.
They are believed to live in different areas for the purpose of dispersion and camouflage, and so as not to draw attention to themselves.
Sources also confirmed that the Ziad Jarrah Brigades – which is part of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, the group that claimed responsibility for several attacks against Iranian interests in Lebanon – had finished reorganizing its new leadership in Lebanon after a recommendation by Al-Qaeda command in Waziristan and Pakistan.
Areas where Hezbollah enjoys broad support were subject to a number of car bombs and suicide attacks at the end of last year and the beginning of this year after the party joined the Syrian war alongside President Bashar Assad.
Additionally, a Qatari security delegation recently arrived to Lebanon and held a series of meetings with security officials, which entailed discussing files related to the jihadists who have allegedly come to Lebanon from Syria.
Qatari intelligence reportedly has information on terrorist activities that are expected to take place in Qatar but are being prepared in Lebanon.