On Jan. 1, the leader of the al-Qaeda based militia called the “Abdullah Azzam Brigades” was arrested in Beirut by the intelligence-service of the Lebanese army, according to the minister of Defense Fayez Ghosn. Al-Majid, a Saudi national listed as one of 85 suspects by his home country is now being held for questioning in Lebanon and will be charged for the double suicide bombings at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut last year, which left 22 people dead and more than 140 injured.
According to Debkafile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources, al-Majid was arrested even earlier, namely on Dec. 30 at an army-checkpoint in Beirut. Apparently, the army forewarned of his return from Syria, where he had met with Abu Muhammed al-Golani, who is the leader of the Nusra-front – another al-Qaeda related faction wanting a pan-islamic state under Shia-rule.
The arrested leader al-Majid was chosen as “emir” of the Azzam Brigades in 2012, the same year the U.S. declared it a terrorist organization. Their name is even taken from the co-founder of al-Qaeda, and the Brigades were formed by Saleh al-Qarawi who had close connections with the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq.
Al-Majid was already sentenced to life-inprisonment in his absence for membership of an al-Qaeda inspired faction called “Fatah all Islam.” This particular organization was fighting the Lebanese army in 2007 in the Palestinian “Nahr el-Bared” camp. The battle cost hundreds of lives, so militia members fled to another camp called “Ain el-Helwa.” According to a Palestinian official, al-Majid had also left this camp for Syria around the middle of 2012.
Lebanon currently has three Muslim factions: the Sunnites, the Shiites and the Salafists. Since the assasination of their Prime Minister in 2005, the Sunni community has not had a leader who really stood up for them against the all-powerful Hezbollah movement. In the wake of this void, a more extremist Sunni leader stepped into the political arena, trying to fill the gap. His name is Ahmed al-Assir, a Salafi leader. The war in Syria is a catalyst for the radicalization of Lebanon. While both Sunnites and Salafists support the Sunni rebels in Syria, Hezbollah takes the side of Assad, following directives from Iran.
Now why would Syria and Iran be allies? It does not seem logical. Syria’s Alawi ruling class and the Shiites from Iran have very little in common. But from a political and pragmatic point of view things do look different. They are both part of the anti-Western “axis of resistance.” Both are pro-Palestinian for one thing. And then for the practical side: Iran sends weapons to Lebanon via Syria. Both countries also cooperated to deter U.S. influence in neighboring Iraq (which has a Shiite majority).
The leader of the pro-Western front is Saudi Arabia, which recently donated $3 billion to Lebanon in military aid in an attempt to counterbalance Shiite influence in the Levant. On the website of al-Manar TV, the Hezbollah channel, someone commented on the Saudi donation by saying something to the effect that it was creating but a pseudo-peace atmosphere.
An-Nahar, a renowned Lebanese newspaper, made mention of a video on the internet from al-Majid from last year, in which he addresses the “Shiite Lebanon” and vowed to fight the criminals in Syria.
The Azzam Brigades, allegedly the only Sunni jihadist faction in Lebanon, says their fight will continue, with or without their leader. The violence seems unstoppable. Even the popular singer Fadel Shaker, known for his romantic music, turned into a bearded fighter last year in Sidon. Hopefully the key to the solution, peace in Syria, will be brought about soon.
By Mahdiya Dijkhof
Debkafile, an-Nahar, al-Manartv.lb