Lebanese Military Raid Kills Alleged Jabhat Nusrah Commander
|Publication Date||27 February 2013|
|Citation / Document Symbol||Militant Leadership Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 2|
|Cite as||Jamestown Foundation, Lebanese Military Raid Kills Alleged Jabhat Nusrah Commander, 27 February 2013, Militant Leadership Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 2, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5134a48b2.html [accessed 5 March 2015]|
|Comments||Nicholas A. Heras|
On February 2, a raid conducted by Lebanese military intelligence to apprehend Khalid Hmayyed in the northeastern Lebanese village of Arsal, near the Lebanese-Syrian border, led to a firefight between armed residents of the village and the Lebanese military. Lebanese Special Forces intervened in the firefight, which led to the deaths of Hmayyed and two Lebanese military officers. Several Lebanese soldiers and residents of the village were also wounded in the fighting (Daily Star, February 2).
Hmayyed was wanted by the Lebanese military for his alleged connection to the armed Syrian Salafist opposition group Jabhat al-Nusrahh, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State, and Hussein Houjeiri, an Iraqi al-Qaeda operative (al-Akhbar, February 2). Houjeiri and Hmayyed are also reported to have been planners of the kidnapping of seven Estonian bicyclists in Lebanon's Bekaa' Valley in June 2011 (Daily Star, February 9). Lebanese military sources assert that Hmayyed was recruiting and training a 300 person force of Islamist fighters for combat in Lebanon and Syria. He is also believed to have had ties to anti-Assad Salafist fighting groups in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli and to have been a liaison between Jabhat al-Nusrahh and Lebanese Salafist fighters in and around Tripoli. 
The area in and around Arsal, with a majority Sunni population that is generally anti-Assad, is considered by the pro-Assad March 8 Lebanese political bloc and Lebanese security services to be a major site of Lebanese support for the armed Syrian opposition (Daily Star, February 5). Residents of the village, and anti-Assad Lebanese politicians such as the Future Movement's Khalid Daher, stated that the operation in Arsal was a Hezbollah conspiracy to weaken the Syrian opposition and its Lebanese supporters and that the Lebanese military intelligence conducting the operation in Arsal were wearing civilian clothing. They also asserted that the firefight that ensued following the arrest of Hmayyed was due to the belief that the Lebanese soldiers were pro-Assad militiamen (NOW Lebanon, February 3). The Lebanese military denies that its intelligence officers and soldiers were in civilian clothing; photographs taken of the soldiers while the conflict was occurring in Arsal obtained by the Lebanese press show soldiers in uniform, not in civilian clothing (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, February 3).
As a result of the fighting in Arsal, the Lebanese military has erected checkpoints limiting movement into and out of the village and has charged 34 Arsai residents with murder of the two Lebanese soldiers, the attempted murder of Lebanese soldiers and seizure of military property (an-Nahar, February 11). The raid in Arsal, and the resulting furor in its aftermath, are adding further tension and distrust between pro and anti-Assad Lebanese political and social actors.
1. Author's interview online with a Lebanese Army source with extensive operational experience throughout Lebanon who requested anonymity due to being on active duty, February 3 and 18, 2013.