One of the most bizarre documents in the annals of international Islamist terror has reached DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources. It is a detailed report from the Lebanese Hizballah to West European intelligence agencies, including the German BND, blowing the whistle on the relocation of batches of al Qaeda operatives from Iraq to Lebanon to prepare for its coming terror offensive.
This may be the first time in all seven years of its world jihad that al Qaeda has been betrayed to Western intelligence by a fellow radical Islamist organization.
The Lebanese group’s motives emerge from this rare secret document, whose highlights DEBKA-Net-Weekly presents exclusively hereunder:
Lebanon is in the throes of a grave crisis. Major sections of central government are non-functional, and the national security, intelligence and military authorities have lost control of many parts of the country. Al Qaeda is exploiting this situation to use Lebanon as its main way station for fighters from Iraq. The country is being used to give these fighters a breather, a chance to recuperate from their combat experiences and to train for their next arena – West Europe.
Al Qaeda’s command structure in Lebanon:
A Tunisian, aged 40, called Mustapha Ben Rajeb, is directing the fighters’ translocation from Iraq and Lebanon and assigning them their target arenas in West Europe.
His two deputies are a Syrian codenamed Abu Jebal (real name Fara Kawash) and an Egyptian dubbed Abu Walid (real name unknown).
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terror sources report the name Abu Walid has been known to Western and Lebanese intelligence services from 2006 when he established himself in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli. He dropped out of sight in mid-2006 when the Lebanese army fought the Fatah al-Islam at the Palestinian camp of Nahar al-Bard. It was assumed that he made tracks for Syria or Iraq, calculating that his discovery in the vicinity of the battle would have blown Fatah al-Islam’s links to al Qaeda.
A sub-cell provides the three al Qaeda executives in Lebanon with forged passports matching the descriptions of the al Qaeda operatives heading out on missions as well as other forged documents, including credit cards. The terrorists arrive in Europe fully equipped with false identities.
The same sub-cell has a workshop for producing counterfeit currency notes, some of which are used to fund al Qaeda’s operations, while the rest the jihadis smuggle into Europe, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
Mustapha Ben Rajib:
The Hizballah document describes him as constantly making the rounds between al Qaeda compounds in Lebanon. In recent weeks, he was sighted in the Palestinian refugee camps of Beirut – often at the Mar Elias camp in the eastern district of the Lebanese capital. He also went south to call in at Sidon’s Al Hilwa camp and north to visit the Dawi camp near Tripoli.
Hizballah describes Al Qaeda’s six terrorist cells in Lebanon
The Tel Qalah cell:
This cell is named for a tiny town near Homs in northern Syria where it put down roots in early 2007. It consists mostly of Egyptians and Palestinians who fought on the Pakistan-Afghan border before moving on to Iraq and the Persian Gulf, finally landing in Lebanon aboard a specially chartered vessel.
Hizballah identifies a member of this high-profile group of Palestinian, Egyptian and Saudi commanders by his codename of Abu Abdullah. He is described as a Palestinian of Saudi origin, who is in direct and close personal contact with Osama bin Laden.
The Iraqi cell:
Made up mainly of Lebanese and Syrian al Qaeda fighters from Iraq, this group started the year at the Ein Hilwa Palestinian camp near Sidon. It was recently assigned to building a base and a training facility in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley near the Syrian border.
The Bayden Cell:
Named for its Syrian commander Muhammad Bayden, this group has also fetched up in the Beqaa Valley to provide military instructors.
Interestingly, these instructors are old-timers, who ran al Qaeda training facilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s. These veterans make themselves useful to the various al Qaeda groups and cells in Lebanon in the capacity of mentors and instructors as needed.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly: The Hizballah document provides Western intelligence with its first piece of testimony that al Qaeda’s founding fathers, most in their 50s if not older, are still in harness and guiding the steps of the rising generations of jihadis. Moving them from place to place according to the movement’s operational needs demands a high degree of organization and shows an efficient utilization of manpower.
The Band of 12 – or Band of the Dozen:
More than half of the Band of Dozen members are Palestinians recruited and trained at the Ain Hilwa camp.
Hizballah discloses that some are already in France and Britain, the vanguard for al Qaeda’s next terror campaign. Their hosts are al Qaeda’s covert cells in the big cities of both countries.
The Libyan Cell:
This group’s members are not of Libyan extraction as their name suggests; they have only borrowed Libyan tribal and clan identities for their forged passports, documents and legends.
The Jordanian Cell:
Unlike the Libyan cell, its members are authentic Jordanians – or rather Palestinians recruited in Jordan. They too have gathered at the Lebanese Ain Hilwa camp.
Setting forth its reasons for giving away al Qaeda’s latest moves to the West, Hizballah maintains it is offering the information up to substantiate its argument that the West’s Lebanon policies were off beam from first to last.
The document maintains that the West was wrong in backing Rafiq Hariri (who was assassinated in February 2005) as prime minister and should not now be sponsoring his son, Saad Hariri, and his political allies in the March 14 Movement.
According to Hizballah, the senior Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, opened the Lebanese door to al Qaeda in the first place.
(DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources stress that there is some truth in this claim. He allowed the jihadis to enter Lebanon on their way from Iraq and Syria, intending to use them as a counterweight to Shiite Hizballah influence in the Palestinian refugee camps. )
In Hizballah’s view, this original blunder has ended up producing a fresh al Qaeda influx from Iraq bound for attacks on such Western capitals as Paris and London.
Tehran‘s invisible hand in the Hizballah document
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources find the remarkable Hizballah document instructive for its sub-text:
1. Hizballah is a close ally of Tehran, not only in Lebanon but the entire Middle East, especially in Iraq, where Iran’s Lebanese proxy actively aids the Shiite Special Groups fighting the Americans at Tehran’s bidding. Iran’s undercover agents in Iraq work with al Qaeda remnants still active in the Anbar and Diyala provinces.
There is no way that Hizballah would have exposed inside dope on al Qaeda in Lebanon to West European undercover agencies without the permission of the highest political and intelligence levels in Tehran.
The inference therefore is that Tehran’s association with al Qaeda is well compartmentalized: it is switched on when it suits their shared goal of fighting Americans – and off again when Iran is pursuing its overall Middle East strategic interests.
2. Tehran and Hizballah exposed al Qaeda’s Lebanon network and plan of campaign in order to drive a wedge between the United States and West Europe in their global war on al Qaeda. They are warning Europe that it will pay the price for the US-promoted Iraq War and the Lebanese crisis, because both events are pushing al Qaeda terrorists from Iraq to Europe's doorstep.
3. The Hizballah document also dangles a lure for Western intelligence services by intimating that cooperation could be profitable to both sides and serve them better than animosity.
Our intelligence sources emphasize that Hizballlah’s act of blowing the whistle to the West against al Qaeda in Lebanon, or anywhere else, will not stop the two Islamist terrorist organizations from ganging up again on the West – when expedient.