BEIRUT: There are strong indications that Lebanon is becoming a battleground for Al-Qaeda, Speaker Nabih Berri warned in remarks published Tuesday.
“I read in an American newspaper that Lebanon has turned into a place for Jihad for Al-Qaeda and regardless of what I have read, all signs on the ground confirm this,” Berri told Al-Joumhouria daily.
“It is enough to observe some of the phenomena and the way it is growing to realize that the Lebanese arena has become a fertile ground for these groups,” he added.
In addition to Berri, several other leaders in the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition allege Al-Qaeda is gaining a foothold in Lebanon.
In an interview last year, Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh dismissed denials by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, saying Al-Qaeda was present in Lebanon.
The Zghorta MP said both President Michel Sleiman and Mikati had reports about Al-Qaeda activity in Lebanon.
Khalid Hmayyed, the man whose arrest sparked clashes last month between the Lebanese Army and gunmen in the eastern border town of Arsal, was a member of Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front), a militant Islamist group with ties to Al-Qaeda, according to the head of Army Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel.
Two Lebanese soldiers were killed on Feb. 1 after a Lebanese Army unit, which was trying to apprehend Hmayyed on the outskirts of Arsal, was ambushed by gunmen in retaliation for the arrest.
Hmayyed was killed in the incident.