BEIRUT: Two Malaysians have been charged with belonging to the terrorist network Al-Qaeda after being arrested in Beirut last week and are set to re-appear in court Monday, according to a security source.
It is believed the pair were in Lebanon en route to Syria, where they planned to join the rebels in fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the source added.
The pair were formally charged last Thursday, according to a Malaysian news agency, after being arrested in their hotel room in Beirut’s Hamra district by members of Army Intelligence earlier in the week.
Rafik Mohammad Aref and Mohammad Razin Shaaban, both in their 20s, are fluent Arabic speakers, and it is believed they underwent terrorist training in Yemen in 2007, after being recruited into the organization by compatriot Mustafa Mansour.
Both had been monitored closely by Lebanese intelligence authorities upon arrival to Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport in early October, the security sources added.
Aref and Shaaban traveled to Beirut to meet with another Al-Qaeda operative, allegedly tasked with assisting them in entering Syria, the sources said.
The security source also said that Aref and Shaaban traveled to Lebanon after their travel arrangements from Turkey to Syria failed.
Information on the operations set to have been carried out by the Malaysians in Syria indicated they planned to join the ranks of foreign jihadi fighters who have reportedly entered Syria to fight alongside the opposition in bringing down the government, the source added.
Information provided by Turkish authorities to the Lebanese intelligence helped the Army track down the men’s movements in recent weeks, the source added.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Sunday, “Malaysia does not condone terrorism or extremism by any group that may compromise the security of any country and its people, and fully respects the laws of Lebanon.”