Syria jihadi hub now funneling killers to Lebanon instead of Iraq
Heavily armed foreign jihadists have been entering Lebanon from Syria from around the time Western authorities noticed a drop in the infiltration of foreign fighters from Syria to Iraq, Lebanese officials say.What should be noted is that this coincides with the loss of the al Qaeda rat lines through Anbar Province. In other words, the loss of Anbar has resulted in a drop of infiltration into Iraq. Syria also finds it in its interest to destabilize Lebanon in hopes of giving its troops an excuse to go back into that country and subjugate it. It hopes to do so before the UN tribunal is established that would force Syria to account for the murder of Hariri.
Syrian authorities, hoping to disrupt Lebanon so they can reassert control of the country, "have stopped sending [the jihadists] to Iraq and are now sending them here," charged Mohammed Salam, a specialist in Palestinian affairs in Lebanon. "They sent those people to die in Lebanon."
Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, commander of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, said about half of the militants who have been battling Lebanese forces in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp outside Tripoli for nine days had fought previously in Iraq.
"They are very dangerous," he said in an interview. "We have no choice, we have to combat them."
Officials traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said before Miss Rice's meeting with her Syrian counterpart in Egypt early this month that Syria appeared to be taking "positive" steps to guard its border with Iraq, resulting in a reduced number of jihadists crossing the border.
But U.N. officials running the Nahr el-Bared camp told The Washington Times that a large band of foreigners carrying mortars, rockets, explosive belts and other heavy weapons entered the camp in a group several months ago.
That is near the time that infiltration of militants from Syria into Iraq fell off, according to Lebanese authorities, who suspect the jihadists were simply redirected by Damascus.