Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Lebanon
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 May 2013|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Lebanon, 30 May 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/51a86e81c.html [accessed 25 September 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Overview: The Government of Lebanon – led by a centrist President and Prime Minister, but with a cabinet dominated by the pro-Syrian regime and the Hizballah-aligned March 8 coalition – continued to make selective progress in building its counterterrorism capacity and cooperation with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Lebanese authorities continued efforts to disrupt suspected terrorist cells before they could act; arrested suspected al-Qa'ida (AQ)-affiliated militants and Palestinian violent extremists; and uncovered several weapons caches of varying sizes. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), in particular, were credited with capturing wanted terrorist fugitives and containing sectarian violence. The Internal Security Force (ISF) continued to improve as a law enforcement organization and has become a viable counterbalance to armed militias and violent extremist groups. As the ISF improved its capabilities and aggressively pursued terrorism and corruption cases, its leadership has become a bigger target for those who seek to destabilize the country.
Lebanese authorities have not apprehended the four members of Hizballah, indicted in 2011 by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other individuals.
Hizballah, with deep roots among Lebanon's Shia community and significant backing from the Iranian government, remained the most dangerous and prominent terrorist group in Lebanon. Several other terrorist organizations remained active in Lebanon. Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC), Asbat al-Ansar, Fatah al-Islam, Fatah al-Intifada, Jund al-Sham, the Ziyad al-Jarrah Battalions, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and several other splinter groups all operated within Lebanon's borders, though primarily out of Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps. The LAF did not maintain a daily presence in the camps, but it occasionally conducted operations in the camps to counter terrorist threats. In November, the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon reported that there has been no progress in efforts to dismantle military bases maintained by the PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifada, which are primarily located along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Several of these groups, including Hizballah, have become embroiled in the civil war in Syria. Hizballah has directly trained Syrian government personnel inside Syria, has facilitated the training of Syrian forces by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, and played a substantial role in efforts to expel Syrian opposition forces from areas within Syria. The media also reported that unidentified numbers of Lebanese Sunnis have joined the battle in Syria on behalf of Syrian opposition groups, which includes a number of various Free Syrian Army units, and possibly disparate violent extremist groups.
Over the course of the year, reports surfaced of weapons smuggling into Syria (arming regime and anti-regime forces) from Lebanon and vice versa, and from Syria and Iran to Hizballah and other militant groups in Lebanon.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: On October 19, a car bomb in downtown Beirut killed three individuals, including Brigadier General Wissam al-Hasan, head of the Information Branch of the ISF, the organization's intelligence arm. The ISF is leading the investigation into Hasan's assassination, but so far no suspects have been officially identified. Other major incidents of terrorism included:
On April 4, Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, survived an assassination attempt.
On July 5, Boutros Harb, a Member of Parliament and former Minister, was the target of a failed assassination attempt.
On August 15, the Miqdad clan, a large Shia criminal network, abducted 23 Syrian and Turkish citizens in Lebanon, claiming retaliation for the abduction of one of their family members in Syria. Nearly three weeks later, the LAF conducted a successful military operation in Hizballah-controlled south Beirut to free the hostages.
In October, media reports revealed that three members of Fatah al-Islam escaped from Roumieh prison where they had been held since 2007. Lebanese authorities launched an investigation into the incident.
On October 3, an explosion at a Hizballah munitions cache killed three militants in the town of Nabi Sheet.
On October 6, Hizballah launched an unmanned aerial vehicle into Israel, which was shot down by the Israel Defense Forces over southern Israel.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: On May 12, the Directorate of General Security (DGS) arrested Shadi al-Mawlawi, a Sunni leader in the city of Tripoli, for his alleged ties to terrorist organizations. According to press reports, Lebanese authorities also arrested and interrogated Hamza Mahmoud Tarabay and a Qatari citizen, Abdulaziz al-Atiyeh. After al-Mawlawi's arrest, sectarian clashes broke out in Tripoli and other parts of Lebanon, killing several and wounding nearly a hundred. On May 22, al-Mawlawi was later released and al-Atiyeh was extradited to his home country.
On August 9, the ISF arrested Michel Samaha, former Information Minister and Member of Parliament, for allegedly smuggling explosives in his car from Syria, as part of a conspiracy to assassinate outspoken opponents of the Asad regime and their Lebanese supporters. Though Mr. Samaha later confessed to the charges against him, his case was pending a final resolution at year's end. On December 17, the United States designated Samaha as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 and as a Specially Designated National under Executive Order 13441.
Lebanese authorities maintained that amnesty for Lebanese involved in acts of violence during the 1975-90 civil wars prevented terrorism prosecutions of concern to the United States.
Corruption remained a factor influencing all aspects of society, including law enforcement.
Lebanon did not have biometric systems in place at points of entry into the country. Lebanese passports were machine readable, and the government was considering the adoption of biometric passports. The DGS, under the Ministry of Interior (MOI), controls immigration and passport services and uses an electronic database to collect biographic data for travelers at all points of entry. The Lebanese government maintained bilateral agreements for information sharing with Syria.
Lebanon has a Megaports and Container Security Initiative program, and participated in Export Control and Related Border Security programs. Lebanon also continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program, which focused on enhancing Lebanese law enforcement capacity for border security, investigations, and leadership and management. Lebanon has also received nearly US $37 million in State Department assistance to develop the capacities of the ISF.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Lebanon is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. The Special Investigation Commission (SIC), Lebanon's financial intelligence unit, is an independent legal entity empowered to investigate suspicious financial transactions and freeze assets. The SIC is a member of the Egmont Group. Of the 136 suspicious transaction reports received by the SIC between January and October 2012, it referred 29 cases to the Office of the Prosecutor General. During the same period, the ISF received requests to investigate 16 money laundering and 26 terrorist finance cases, mostly from Interpol, and it has launched investigations into each allegation. The SIC refers requests for designation or asset freezes regarding Hizballah and affiliated groups to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the Lebanese government does not require banks to freeze these assets, because it does not consider Hizballah a terrorist organization. However, Banque du Liban, Lebanon's Central Bank, issued Basic Circular 126, on April 5, 2012, requiring banks and financial institutions to abide by regulations implemented by their correspondent banks, including banks with U.S. correspondents.
Three laws intended to strengthen Lebanon's anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism regime were passed by the Council of Ministers on March 14, and were awaiting Parliament's approval at year's end. These include:
Amendments to the existing money-laundering Law 318/2001 adding offenses to the existing law, imposing financial penalties on obliged entities for reporting violations, and requiring lawyers and accountants to report suspicious transactions
New legislation imposing requirements for declaring cross-border transportation of cash
New legislation on the Exchange of Tax Information, which would authorize the Ministry of Finance to join bilateral and multilateral agreements to exchange information related to tax evasion and tax fraud.
In principle, the MOI is responsible for monitoring the finances and management of all registered NGOs, but it was inconsistent in applying these controls, particularly in cases involving groups such as Hizballah. By law, all NGOs are obliged to submit a yearly financial statement to the MOI. The Lebanese banking sector conducts due diligence on NGOs with bank accounts, monitors their transactions, and reports suspicious transactions to the SIC, which scrutinizes NGOs utilizing the Lebanese banking system.
Exchange houses were allegedly used to facilitate money laundering, including by Hizballah. Financial institutions are required to keep records of transactions for five years.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: Lebanon continued to voice its commitment to fulfilling relevant UNSCRs, including 1559, 1680, and 1701. Lebanon is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and is party to its Convention on Combating International Terrorism.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Lebanon worked with donor countries and international organizations to provide development assistance in Palestinian refugee camps and to provide economic and social opportunities to counter violent extremism in the camps. The LAF continued to expand its public relations campaigns to bolster its presence and status as the sole protector of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence, particularly in southern Lebanon. There were no programs to rehabilitate and/or reintegrate terrorists into mainstream society.