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TIMES: Al-Qaeda in talks with Lebanon group

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  • Dragana Mitrovic
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2002040005-2002053546,00.html THE TIMES (London) FRIDAY FEBRUARY 01 2002 Al-Qaeda in talks with Lebanon group BY MICHAEL
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2002
      http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2002040005-2002053546,00.html

      THE TIMES (London)
      FRIDAY FEBRUARY 01 2002

      Al-Qaeda in talks with Lebanon group

      BY MICHAEL EVANS, DEFENCE EDITOR

      THE al-Qaeda terrorist organisation is trying to
      transfer its base of operations from Afghanistan to
      Lebanon, according to intelligence uncovered earlier
      this month.

      A senior operative of Osama bin Laden’s network, a
      Yemeni national who has the alias of Salah Hajir, is
      believed to have arrived in Lebanon about two weeks
      ago and has held meetings in Beirut with leaders of
      the Hezbollah terrorist group.

      Hezbollah is known to be funded and sponsored by the
      Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The Iranian Government is
      in the spotlight after President Bush’s State of the
      Union address on future threats to the United States
      which highlighted an “evil axis” of Iran, Iraq and
      North Korea.

      On Wednesday Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence
      Secretary, said: “We know Iran is actively sending
      terrorists down through Damascus into the Bekaa Valley
      where they train terrorists, then engage in acts
      against countries in the region and elsewhere.”

      Although British diplomatic sources said that
      Hezbollah, a Shia Muslim organisation, and al-Qaeda,
      which is Sunni Muslim, were “unlikely bedfellows”,
      there is substantial evidence of a working alliance
      between the two groups dating back to the early 1990s.


      Bin Laden is believed to have met a senior member of
      Hezbollah at that time. Reports also indicated that
      Hezbollah provided al-Qaeda with explosives and
      training.

      Intelligence of the arrival of the senior bin Laden
      associate in Lebanon and the meetings with Hezbollah
      leaders may provide the first indication that al-Qaeda
      is seeking an accommodation with the Iranian-backed
      terror group.

      There have also been reports that since arriving in
      Lebanon — which is home to 30,000 Syrian troops and
      under the effective control of President Assad of
      Syria — Salah Hajir has met a radical Sunni Islamic
      organisation called Usbat al-Ansar which has close
      ties with al-Qaeda and is based in the Ain al-Hilweh
      refugee camp in Sidon.

      A number of Usbat al-Ansar operatives are believed to
      have returned to Lebanon a month ago after fighting
      alongside al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan.

      After the fall of the Taleban and the destruction of
      much of the al-Qaeda infrastructure, including all
      their training camps, there has been speculation that
      bin Laden’s organisation might try to transfer its
      headquarters to another country.

      Somalia was top of the list, and a close watch has
      been kept on all shipping out of Pakistan to prevent
      al-Qaeda members escaping by sea in vessels bound for
      Somalia and other potential harbouring countries.

      Since September 11 the CIA and FBI have been
      investigating links between al-Qaeda and other
      terrorist groups, including Algeria’s Armed Islamic
      Group, Harkat-ul-Mujahidin based in Pakistan, and Abu
      Sayyaf in the Philippines.

      The last time Hezbollah attacked Americans was in 1983
      when 241 US servicemen were killed in a suicide
      bombing in Beirut.


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