Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Security Briefs

Lebanon's security services had a busy day this Saturday, below is a collection of articles detailing their activities.

Before taking a look at the articles and incidents highlighted below, I'd like the reader to note one important fact that has permeated the reinvigorated activities of Lebanon's security services over the past two or three weeks: The rejuvination took place the moment the former head of the country's intelligence services left the country [to take up an ambassadorship to the Vatican]. Chew on that as you read and ponder the following news (which comes in addition to the bust of a number of terror cells earlier this month).

Most significantly (potentially) is a report in Lebanon's Al Mustaqbal newspaper detailing the arrest of Syrian Colonel who confessed to being ordered to carry out a bombing, on behalf of Syrian Intelligence, in the capital, Beirut:
A Syrian colonel has reportedly told a Lebanese military tribunal that he was assigned to plant a bomb in Martyrs’ Square, which was to be detonated during the commemoration of the first anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination.

Al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported on Saturday that Colonel Firas Ghanem told the military tribunal that a Syrian intelligence officer, who was identified as George Salloum, asked him to plant the explosive in Martyrs’ Square.

Ghanem reportedly said he accepted the assignment so that he could leave Syria, although he did not intend to carry out the mission. He was arrested three days after leaving Damascus as he attempted to illegally enter Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley from Syria, accompanied by a Tunisian citizen identified as Monir Hilal.
The arrested Colonel's testimony is suspect, to say the least, and we should expect more details to come out ... whether those details will be valid or not will also remain to be seen.

In other news, security services continued extensive security raids in the Hizballah-controlled Bekaa valley today:
On the third day of the security campaign, the authorities reported the following results: 85 wanted persons arrested, 342 legal warrants applied, 929 traffic tickets organized, and 450 legal records and violations applied.
Also apprehended were three truckloads of marijuana:

The security forces’ command in Baalbek, in coordination with intelligence services, conducted a search of a farm on Saturday owned by a member of the al-Ismail family, where it captured three trucks loaded with marijuana that had been prepared in the Brital and Taybe villages.

Security forces also confiscated three manufacturing machines

The raids come after extensive media coverage of brazen drug and criminal organizations and activities in the Hizballah-controlled area. The group, for its part, announced that it would suspend its long-standing protection of criminal rackets and individuals throughout the time-frame it has allotted to the security services to carry out their raids [... thanks :)].

After detonating a small bomb found near a school in the southern city of Saida, Lebanese Army sappers responded to another bomb alert in the town of Jamhour. Fortunately for the residents of the town, the abandoned handbag that sparked the alert was found only to contain a toy rabbit.

Security services were also busy in the northern city of Tripoli:
In Tripoli, four people were arrested, including three Lebanese and one Syrian, for allegedly being members of a group that forged official documents and sold Lebanese-owned land without the owners’ knowledge or consent. The group’s activity took place in Tripoli, Koura, Donnieh, and other northern regions. A number of mayors were also investigated in an attempt to uncover how the group had access to fake identifications.
Finally, as I was preparing this post for publishing, news reports from Lebanon indicated that the Lebanese Army was responding to "a breakout of fighting" in Beirut's Tareek el Jdeedeh neighborhood. The neighborhood was the scene of heavy fighting in May as Hizballah and other Syrian-backed militias undertook a violent takeover of the capital. I guess the security services will have their hands full throughout the night as well.

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