Friday, February 21, 2014

A car bomb's journey between Syria and Lebanon

A car bomb's journey between Syria and Lebanon

Lebanese forensic experts gather evidence from the site of a car bomb, that
targeted Al-Aytam service station the day before and left at least four
people dead, in the town of Hermel, in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley, on
February 2, 2014. (Photo:AFP/STR)

Published Thursday, February 20, 2014

Two terrorist bombings, carbon copies from last November's twin bombing of
the Iranian embassy in Beirut, shook Lebanon on Wednesday, leaving behind
ten martyrs and more than a hundred wounded. Interior Minister Nouhad
al-Machnouk came to the fore and called for the closing of "the death
crossings" between Lebanon and Syria.

Post-bombing news has become routine. Security agencies will begin looking
for the car's make, its journey, the size of the explosive device, and the
identity of the suicide bomber. These details were quickly revealed. Two car
bombs, driven by two suicide bombers, exploded in Bir Hassan in Beirut's
southern suburbs yesterday morning and killed 10 people.

"The stolen car crossings from Lebanon to Syria are helping the terrorist
Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is boobytrapping cars and sending them back
to Lebanon."
The first car, which was supposed to be heading to the Iranian Cultural
Center, was a 4x4 BMW, with around 100 kilograms of explosives. Details
about the other car, a Mercedes, are still unknown. Its license plate is
fake and the chassis number does not exist on Lebanese lists.

The history of the BMW is already known. In June 2013, it was rented by
someone known to be a car thief, who sold it for $600 to a young man from
northern Bekaa, A. M., who then delivered it to another young man in Brital,
also in northern Bekaa. The second person is an expert at forging car papers
so as to sell the car later, as if it is legitimate. He distributes his
products through a stolen car dealer in the same town.

The dealer has close ties to colleagues in the car theft and trade business
inside Syria. The car that exploded yesterday was bought by Syrian dealers
who are active with the armed Syrian opposition. They brought it into Syria
through the town of Assal al-Ward (in Qalamoun), controlled by the

Through the dealers, the car ended up with a group connected with the
Abdullah Azzam Brigades. They set it up with explosives and brough it back
to Lebanon through the town of Ersal in north Bekaa.

On the same day of the bombing, the Information Branch of the Internal
Security Forces (ISF) presented this information to the Minister of Interior
and Municipalities Nouhad al-Machnouk. As soon as the minister arrived to
the scene of the crime, he said: "The stolen car crossings from Lebanon to
Syria are helping the terrorist Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is
boobytrapping cars and sending them back to Lebanon."

Machnouk called on concerned political forces to help stop the transport of
cars from Brital to Syria, referring to Hezbollah. Politically, his
statements were explained as an attempt to split the responsibility between
his side and his adversaries in the cabinet. In other words, he wanted to
say, "The responsibility of the blood in Dahiyeh does not merely fall on the
known terrorist group in Ersal. It has partners, the group of thieves in
Brital." However, Machnouk does not believe his words should be politicized.
They are linked with the security of innocent people who are being killed by
suicidal terrorism.

The reply to Machnouk came from Brital itself, through a statement demanding
that he stops the thieves, who are no more than 10, in comparison to the
town's population of 30,000. "They only care for the money," the statement
read. "If you wanted to know them more, ask your buddies in Ersal who set up
the car bombs."

Machnouk's statements are based on a report prepared by the Information
Branch of the ISF. It indicated that all the car bombs rigged in Syria and
detonated in Lebanon in the past year had passed through Brital, with the
exception of the car bomb in Bir al-Abed, whose journey is still not
completely known.

The report also indicated that the top stolen car dealer in north Bekaa, M.
T., is based in Brital. Wanted by security forces for more than 10 years, he
is always on the move and in hiding. He sells most of the stolen cars he
buys to associates in Syria.

Since the beginning of the war across the borders, Syrian gangs became
interested in buying cars from Lebanon, which are not stolen. M. T. started
cooperating with a counterfeiter to forge car papers and sell them in Syria
as legitimate. He does not care for the political or sectarian affiliations
of the car buyers.

In Lebanon, also, he is assisted by car thieves of all political and
sectarian affiliations. One of them, A. M., had bought the BMW and is being
held in Lebanese prisons. He had taken seven cars to Brital after renting
them legitimately.

"However, there are 150,000 Lebanese and Syrians living in Ersal today. How
could any security agency work there freely? The issue requires a
comprehensive security plan and the cooperation of all security forces."
Another suspect, who delivered around 50 Kias to M. T. in the past years, is
also in custody. The main bulk were sold by M. T. and A. M. to Syrian
dealers working with the resistance in Qalamoun.

There is a solid conviction at the Information Branch that the closure of
the "death crossings" between Brital and Qalamoun and between Qalamoun and
Ersal would reduce the likelihood of car bombings by 50 percent.

What about the Ersal group helping the terrorists set up car bombs and bring
them into Lebanon? Aren't they known and why are they not being stopped?
"They are known," a concerned security source replied. "However, there are
150,000 Lebanese and Syrians living in Ersal today. How could any security
agency work there freely? The issue requires a comprehensive security plan
and the cooperation of all security forces."

In this regard, security officials are hoping that the new government will
promote cooperation between security agencies more than in the past, after
the period of "stagnation" in the last month of the caretaking period.

In another area of investigations, security forces identified a young man
called Nidal al-Moughir as the prime suspect who detonated the BMW
yesterday. Nidal's father identified the picture of the suspect disseminated
by the army yesterday.

Nidal is a partisan of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir and has been fighting in
Qalamoun in Syria for the past months. He is a Palestinian living in the
town of Bissarieh (Caza Zahrani), the home of the suicide bomber Abdullah
al-Mohammed who blew up himself in the Iranian embassy attack. Moughir's
home in the town was torched by "unknown assailants" yesterday. Security
forces have also conducted DNA tests to confirm whether he was the suicide
bomber or not.

In related news, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the
attack on the Iranian Cultural Center, linking it to Hezbollah's involvement
in the fighting in Syria.

Al-Akhbar obtained information that the Information Branch arrested a young
man, M. A. A., in Tariq al-Jdideh early Thursday morning. He admitted to
being part of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and had been charged with
surveilling the Iranian Cultural Center and al-Manar's building in Bir
Hassan (hundreds of meters apart) by Sheikh Siraj al-Din Zureiqat.

Last Saturday in Tariq al-Jdideh, the Information Branch detained a group
whose members are suspected of having relations with the Abdullah Azzam


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