TIMES: Al-Qaeda in talks with Lebanon group
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
A senior operative of Osama bin Ladens 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 Bushs State of the
Union address on future threats to the United States
which highlighted an evil axis of Iran, Iraq and
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
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
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 Ladens 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 Algerias 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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