Posted by Joshua on Friday, May 15th, 2009
Who Killed Hariri? The Simplest Theory
For Syria Comment
May 15, 2009
The recent release of the four Lebanese generals by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) led journalists like Nicholas Blanford and Georges Malbrunot to discover new “intriguing questions” and to speculate about possible motives for the assassination.
I would like to point out that – without having to resort to speculation – it is possible to establish that members of the Nab’a/Taha cell, described in Malbrunot’s article as being allegedly involved in the assassination, had a personal motive for killing Rafiq Hariri: revenge. Hariri executed Salafi mujaheddin in 2004, who were close to them.
Badih Hamadeh belonged to the Dinniyeh group (1). So did Hassan Nab’a (2), emir of the cell that included the man who claimed the attack in a video statement, Ahmad Abu Adas (3). And so did Ahmed Salim Miqati (2), leader of another cell to which Adas was indirectly linked (4).
Prime Minister Hariri signed the execution order for Badih Hamedeh. Hariri’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Salim Hoss, had refused to sign their execution orders because he objected to the death penalty on moral grounds(5).
Hassan Nab’a’s brother Khader, also a member of his cell, was reportedly linked (6) to the assassination of al-Ahbash leader Nizar al-Halabi in 1995 for which three men were hanged in March 1997, among them Afghan veteran Ahmed al-Qassam (7). Two years later, four Sidon judges were killed in revenge (8).
The Dinniyeh group was founded by Afghan veteran Bassam al-Kanj, who died in clashes with the Lebanese army in the mountains of Dinniyeh in January 2000 (9). Ahmed Miqati escaped to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh (10), whereas Hassan Nab’a fled to Syria (11). Both Miqati and Nab’a were reportedly in contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (12), who knew the latter from Afghanistan (13).
In July 2002, Badih Hamadeh shot and killed three intelligence officers, who had wanted to ask him about his links to the Dinniyeh group (1). Ahmed Miqati sheltered him in Ain al-Hilweh (10), but members of other extremist groups, fearing for the safety of their operations in the camp, handed him over to the authorities (14). The Dinniyeh militants reacted by placing a bomb in the Sidon mosque of Sheikh Maher Hammud who had delivered Hamadeh to the authorities (15).
Ahmed Miqati reappeared in 2004 when a plot by his cell was uncovered that intended to blow up several targets in downtown Beirut, including the Italian embassy (16).
Some observers like Nicholas Blanford and Jihad al-Kazen have speculated that this may have been the first attempt to kill Hariri because he liked to meet journalists in a café just opposite the Italian embassy building (17).
It is interesting that, according to some reports, the Palace of Justice was also on the list of targets (16). The trial of Badih Hamadeh, his fiancée and her mother was held at a military tribunal in Beirut (10).
On February 1, 2006, Al-Balad received a telephone call from a man claiming to speak on behalf of al-Qa’ida. The caller announced that a security target would be bombed in retaliation for the arrest of the Nab’a/Taha cell (subsequently a small bomb exploded at the Fakhreddine barracks in Beirut). He also demanded the release of Badih Hamadeh’s fiancée and her mother (18). The call was traced to a public phone booth in Ain al-Hilweh (19).
In October 2007, Fida’ ‘Itani published in Al-Akhbar what was said to be the testimony of a Saudi member of Nab’a’s cell, Faisal Akbar (20). He first confesses to having taken part in the filming of the videotape containing the claim of responsibility by Ahmed Abu Adas. Then he retracts his testimony. Concerning the video by Adas, he declares that Hassan Nab’a had told him that Hariri was responsible for signing the execution orders in the Nizar al-Halabi case. He also explicitly mentions Badi’ (Hamadeh) (21).
The statement read by Ahmed Abu Adas does cite the intention to “avenge” the deaths of “martyrs who were killed by security forces” in Saudi Arabia as one of the reasons for the attack (22). Unfortunately, I was unable to find a complete transcript of the statement.
In the final part of Faisal Akbar’s testimony, he also describes a file found on the computers of Khaled Taha and other members of the cell as a sophisticated bomb-making course by Isma’il al-Khatib (23), indicating the existence of a link between the Miqati/al-Khatib cell and the Nab’a/Taha cell.
Ahmad Abu Adas worked at a computer shop owned in part by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Sani, a member of the Miqati/al-Khatib cell, in the summer of 2004 (4). Ahmad ‘Isaam al-Saani’a was among those arrested when the plot was uncovered in September 2004 (24). It is possible that at that time Adas was already in contact with extremist groups in Ain al-Hilweh and at Al-Huri mosque, where he sometimes led prayers and where he met Khaled Midhat Taha (25).
Coincidentally, Al-Huri mosque is also the place where Ahmed al-Qassam, Khalid Hamid and Munir Abbud clashed with the Ahbash some years earlier (7), before they were arrested and executed for the assassination of Nizar al-Halabi.
When Bassam al-Kanj visited Lebanon in 1994, he met with several Afghan veterans, among them Ahmed al-Qassam who introduced him to Abu Obeida (26), the deputy leader of Usbat al-Ansar, the same Abu Obeida (Jihad Mustafa) whom Ahmad Abu Adas visited in Ain al-Hilweh years later, according to the first Mehlis report (27). Ahmed al-Qassam went on to serve as liaison between Bassam al-Kanj, the nucleus of the Dinniyeh group in Tripoli and Beirut and Abu Obeida’s group in Ain al-Hilweh until he was executed in 1997 (28).
In conclusion, it is important to stress that while this group did have a motive, that does not automatically mean that they did it, or that this motive was the reason why they did it.
“The Badih Hamadeh Affair
When three military intelligence officers came to his home in Saida on July 11, 2002, to interrogate him on his alleged involvement in the clashes that pitted jihadist Islamists against the army in the Diniyeh region of northern Lebanon (…), Badih Hamadeh killed them and went to hide in Ain al-Helweh. In the camp, he joined the group of Lebanese militants – the “Diniyeh group” – that had settled in the Tawari’ neighborhood, at the northern end of the camp, with Usbat al-Ansar’s support.”
(Bernard Rougier, “Everyday Jihad”, Harvard University Press, Cambridge and London 2007, p.152)
“A fourth group was described by the MLCC (Mount Lebanon Criminal Court; t_d) as “holding leading positions in the armed gang” and was identified as (…), Ahmad Miqati, (…).
A fifth group was described by the MLCC (Mount Lebanon Criminal Court; t_d) as having been trained in the use of firearms but not with having taken part in the clashes. They were identified as (…), Hasan Nab’a, (…).”
(Lebanon: Torture and unfair trial of the Dhinniyyah detainees, Amnesty International, AI Index: MDE 18/005/2003, 7 May 2003)
قرار اتهامي يعرض لنشاطها ولصلتها بـ«أبو عدس» وخالد طه … الادعاء اللبناني: مجموعة الـ 13 تنتمي لـ «القاعدة» …وخططت لاستهداف احدى الطوائف
بيروت الحياة – 07/04/07//
Nibras Kazimi, “Six Degrees of Terrorism: Tentative Link Between Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda and the Hariri Assassination,” 7 April 2007
“81. (…) The Lebanese investigation further revealed that Mr. Abu Adass had been employed at a computer shop in the summer of 2004, which was owned in part by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Sani, who was a member of the Ahmed Miqati and Ismaíl Al-Khatib network.”
(Detlev Mehlis, Report of the International Independent Investigation Commission Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1595. 19 October 2005)
“Three executed at dawn in Lebanon, first in six years (…) Capital punishment was rare in Lebanon until a 1994 law effectively renewed the practice. Whereas only three convicts had been hanged in the past 35 years, the law cleared the way for 14 fresh executions. Execution orders were then stopped when Lahoud first took office in 1998 because then prime minister Salim Hoss was an opponent of the death penalty and refused to sign any such orders.”
(AFP, 17 January 2004)
“After a missile attack on Israel from south Lebanon on December 27, 2005, the Organization of al-Qaeda in Iraq, or the Land of the Two Rivers, issued an audio-recording for its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in which he claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was ordered by al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden.
Among the names announced by Lebanese authorities, four of the suspects were Lebanese nationals. (…) Among the Lebanese were Khader and Malek Nab’a, who are relatives of the suspects in the Dinnieh incidents of 2000 (see the indictment in Lebanon-based al-Nahar newspaper, July 11 2000).
In addition, Khader Nab’a is associated with the appearance of the Salafi-Jihadist movement in Lebanon, when the leader of the al-Ahbash religious sect, Nizar Halabi, was assassinated in 1995.”
(Murad Batal al-Shishani, “Al-Qaeda’s Presence in Lebanon“, Terrorism Focus Volume 3, Issue 4, 31 January 2006 , Jamestown Foundation)
“The Lebanese public first heard Abu Mahjin’s name at the end of 1995, several months after Shaykh Nizar al-Halabi was assassinated on August 31. The security forces arrested five young men, three Lebanese nationals and two Palestinians. Before taking violent action, these men had been harassed by the Ahbash in the mosque of Beirut’s Arab University, in the heart of the popular Sunni neighborhood of Tariq al-Jidaydeh, where Islamist groups usually control street politics. (…) The tribunal also issued death sentences for three of the five men arrested. The sentence was carried out on March 24, 1997: the three Islamists – a Palestinian, Munir Abbud, and two Lebanese men, Ahmad al-Qassam and Khalid Hamid – were hanged at dawn in the courtyard of Rumiyyeh Prison.”
(Rougier 2007, p.119, 120)
Note: The mosque of Beirut’s Arab University = Al-Huri mosque.
“In the Usbat al-Ansar network, for instance, members of a “military wing” took the initiative, on June 8, 1999, to machine-gun four judges while they were in session at Saida’s Palace of Justice, probably to avenge the execution of four (sic; t_d) Islamists sentenced in 1997 after the murder of Nizar al-Halabi, the leader of al-Ahbash.”
(Rougier 2007, p.103)
cf. Rougier 2007, Chapter 7, Underground Jihad in Sir al-Diniyeh, p. 229ff.
Fundamentalist activist Abu Obeida has pleaded guilty to killing three Lebanese army soldiers in Sidon and described to a Beirut military tribunal how he carried out the tripartite murder in the presence of his Palestinian fiancée and her mother. (…)
“I then ran into the garden, climbed over the fence and sprinted to the Ein El-Hilweh camp, where Ahmed Mikati and Saadeddine Seiss sheltered me in a mosque,” said Abu Obeida, who, if convicted, could be executed by a firing squad.
Mikati and Seiss are the leaders of the so-called Dinniyeh group of fundamentalists who flood (“fled”; t_d) north Lebanon’s Dinniyeh mountains after an Islamic anti-government insurrection that the army crushed in the first week of 2000. Mikati and Seiss are standing trial in absentia.
Abu Obeida’s fiancée, Sohair Saeed, and her mother Nayfeh Qanwan, both pleaded not guilty to a charge of helping Abu Obeida shoot the three troopers at the midnight of July 11-12. The court adjourned until Sept. 17 for defense hearings.”
(Naharnet, Beirut, 23 September 2002)
“Arrestation de membres proches d’el-Qaëda venus de Syrie ?
Les services de sécurité libanais ont arrêté 18 salafistes qui seraient liés au réseau el-Qaëda, dont certains membres pourraient être liés à l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri. Dans un reportage diffusé jeudi par la LBC, et dont les informations ont été reprises par le quotidien koweïtien al-Raï al-Aam, les membres de deux groupes salafistes qui se sont infiltrés au Liban via la Syrie ont été arrêtés au cours des derniers jours par les Forces de sécurité intérieure. […]
Il s’agit de Hassan Mohammad Nabaa, « l’Émir » du groupe (le chef dans le jargon salafiste). Ce dernier avait pris part aux événements de Denniyé en 2000, avant de fuir en direction de la Syrie. Son frère a été arrêté lors des manifestations de dimanche dernier à Achrafieh. […]
Les mêmes sources ont en outre révélé que les deux personnes les plus dangereuses de ce groupe, Bilal Zaaroura et Khaled Taha, seraient toujours en fuite. Ces derniers sont entrés au Liban en décembre dernier. […]”
(L’Orient-Le Jour, 11 Février 2006)
“Tre dei dodici estremisti salafiti fermati nei giorni scorsi a Beirut hanno ammesso l’ appartenenza al commando suicida che agì in Iraq. Li guidava Ahmad Salim Miqati, uomo che i servizi segreti ritengono legato ad Al Zarkawi.”
(Terroristi arrestati: «Colpirono a Nassiriya», Fiorenza Sarzanini, Corriere della Sera, 25 settembre 2004, Pagina 8.
Testimony of Nab’a cell member Faisal Akbar, translated by Nibras Kazimi:
(Faisal Akbar:) “A: (…) The letters, which you have shown me, and that I have recognized them, are letters from the brothers in Usbet al-Ansar in the Ain al-Helwah Camp to Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, through Rashid, (while) the letter addressed to “the Hajji”, which is an alias for Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, and the letter to Abu Laith al-Nejdi, who was martyred (later), these two letters (belong) to Rashid.”
(Nibras Kazimi, Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 4)
“Q: Where did you meet Rashid and how and when?
(Faisal Akbar:) A: I met Rashid who is in your custody and now I found out that his name is Hassan Naba’a, in Afghanistan during the year 2000 in one of the training camps and we stayed together for approximately five months, then Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi sent him to Lebanon to organize groups to prepare the ground for the jihad in Lebanon, so Rashid arrived and he was called at the time “Abu Muslim”.
(Nibras Kazimi, Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 4)
cf. Rougier 2007, The Badih Hamadeh Affair, p.152ff.
By Robert Fisk at the Ein al-Helweh refugee camp, Sidon, Lebanon
The Jaamat men have threatened to turn the camp into a bloodbath. Indeed, when another of their members, Badi Hmadeh, was turned over to Lebanese police last month, its leader, Ahmed Miqati, warned he would transform the camp into “another Afghanistan”. The trouble is, these few armed and very strict Muslims could provoke a great deal of killing. (…)
As for the men of the Jaamat al-Noor, they have told their friends that they do not recognise Syria, Lebanon or Palestine, that “we live in Allah’s wide dominion and implement his decree”. Their wives wear the chador. Their homes are decorated with pictures of Mr bin Laden. In protest at the arrest of Badi Hamadeh, they left an explosive device in Sidon – inside the city’s al-Quds mosque.”
(The Independent, 16 August 2002)
(…) “We have addressed a warning to Hammoud for his betrayal two weeks ago,” said Osbat Al Noor’s statement, referring to a bomb found at the bottom of the rostrum that Hammoud uses to deliver his sermons at Sidon’s Al Quds mosque, two days after Abu Obeida’s arrest.
“It seems, however, that this warning was not enough to stop Maher Hammoud from conspiring with several factions in the camp to turn over the Dinniyeh group,” the statement said. “We declare that we will turn Ein El-Helweh and the whole of Lebanon into a pool of blood if the conspirators press ahead with their plots,” the statement threatened.”
(Naharnet, Beirut, 12 August 2002)
“Lebanon’s Minister of the Interior Elias al-Murr said Isma’il al-Khatib was among 10 people arrested on 22 September, apparently for alleged links to al-Qa’eda and an alleged plan to attack the Italian and Ukrainian embassies, the Palace of Justice and other government security buildings in Beirut.”
(Lebanon: Amnesty International demands independent investigation into death in custody and end to incommunicado detention, Amnesty International, 30 September 2004, AI Index: MDE 18/011/2004)
“Without knowing it, Elias Murr thwarted the first, or original plot to assassinate Rafik Hariri, which had it succeeded, would have done away with the country’s entire future, by striking at the Beirut Central District, the symbol of Lebanon’s recovery.
The Italian Embassy in Lebanon faces the Parliament building at Nejmeh Square and is next to St. George Eastern Orthodox church and the Etoile coffee shop where PM Hariri used to meet friends and journalists upon exiting Parliament. If a ton of explosives had gone off there, the destruction would have been devastating, right in the heart of the capital, and would have killed hundreds.”
(Jihad al-Khazen, The International Investigation and Old Security Files, Al-Hayat, 2 November 2005)
Note: In an apparent misreading of the Mehlis report, the article wrongly states that Ahmed Abu Adas was “part of” “the Ahbash”.
“Blast near Lebanese army post after al Qaeda warning
By Nadim Ladki
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A bomb exploded near a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut early on Thursday, shortly after a purported threat by al Qaeda to attack security installations in Lebanon.
Security sources said the night blast slightly wounded a soldier, wrecked a car and blew out windows in nearby buildings.
They said a local newspaper had received a telephone call from someone claiming to speak on behalf of al Qaeda and declaring that a security target would be bombed in Beirut in retaliation for the arrest last month of 13 group members (the Nab’a/Taha cell; t_d). (…)
Al-Balad newspaper reported in its morning edition that it had received a telephone call in which a man claiming to be al Qaeda’s representative in Lebanon gave the authorities two weeks to release two women detainees.
“The caller threatened to launch three qualitative military operations simultaneously and clash with the security forces if the two women … are not freed,” al-Balad said in a report.
The women are the fiancee and her mother of an al Qaeda member (Badih Hamadeh; t_d) who was recently executed for killing three military intelligence agents.”
(Reuters, February 2 2006)
Military Examining Magistrate Rashid Mizher questioned two alleged al-Qaida network members suspected of detonating a bomb near an army barracks in Beirut two weeks ago.
Khalil al-Sowda and Abdel-Rahman al-Jasser, both Palestinians, are also suspected of hurling hand-grenades near Lebanese army checkpoints outside the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in the outskirts of Sidon. (…)
An army statement issued later Thursday said investigators traced the call made to al-Balad newspaper to a public phone booth in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh. The camp near the southern port city of Sidon is known to be a hotbed for fugitives and Islamic extremists.”
(Naharnet, Beirut, 16 February, 2006)
مالك نبعة ينفي التُهم وأكبر يعترف بتجهيز أبو عدس
السعودي أكبر يعترف بتفاصيل التفخيخ والاستطلاع وتنفيذ الاغتيال
السعودي أكبر يتراجع عن اعترافاته ويدلي بما هو أخطر
Translated by Nibras Kazimi, Narrative of a Conspiracy, 5 November 2007
“Q: What did you see on television when Ahmed Abu Ades appeared, and what do you remember of him?
(Faisal Akbar:) A: I remember watching him on the Aljazeera channel, in a film cut up into two or three segments, reading a statement (on behalf) of the Nusra wel Jihad group, taking responsibility for the Hariri assassination. I don’t remember all the reasons, but I remember some of them that revolved around the revenge for the martyrs of the haramein (Translator’s Note: the holy cities of Mecca and Medina), and it was widespread among us that Hariri had signed the execution (orders) for some of the Salafist mujaheddin in Lebanon. (…)”
“(Faisal Akbar:) A: No one was with us, and Rashid said at the time, after the film was played on Aljazeera, that “Hariri was implicated and responsible for signing the execution (orders) for the mujaheddin in the Nezar al-Halabi case” and I hadn’t known about this matter until Rashid told me about it.
A: I certify to you that what I mentioned now is honest and true, and what Rashid had mentioned about the execution of the mujaheddin in the Nezar al-Halabi case is what I learnt from him. As for what (I meant) by widespread, are the executions in general, which Hariri signed, and they concern past Lebanese mujaheddin like Badi’ or Wadi’.”
(Nibras Kazimi, Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 4)
“To support our brother mujahidin in the land of the two holy mosques and to avenge their righteous martyrs who were killed by security forces of the Saudi regime in the land of the two holy mosques, we resolved, after relying on Almighty God, to carry out fair punishment against the agent of this regime and its cheap tool in Greater Syria, the sinner and maker of illegal money, Rafik Hariri, through the implementation of a resounding martyrdom operation.”
(Nicholas Blanford, Killing Mr Lebanon, London, Tauris 2006, p. 141)
(Faisal Akbar:) “A: (…) As for the studies that were saved on the computers of the guys, these are modern combat studies, like the seminar of the martyr Isma’il al-Khatib on assembling electronic circuits to attach to explosives, and seminars on making explosives, and seminars on advanced communications equipment.”
(Nibras Kazimi, Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 4)
نص القرار الإتهامي لقاضي التحقيق العسكري الأول في لبنان بحق35 شخصا من شبكتي أحمد المقياتي وإسماعيل الخطيب بتهمة التخطيط لتفجير السفارتين الإيطالية والأوكرانية في لبنان
“174. (…) Khaled Midhat Taha, another religious associate of Mr. Abu
Adass’s, (…). Mr. Taha met Mr. Abu Adass when they were students at
the Arab University where they used to meet in the University’s mosque.”
(Mehlis I, October 2005)
“During his 1994 stay in Lebanon, Basim al-Kanj had met demobilized Afghan veterans who had returned to their homeland. Thanks to one of them, Ahmad al-Qassam, whom he had met in Peshawar – and who was executed on March 24, 1997, for having participated in the assassination of Nizar al-Halabi, the head of al-Ahbash – he met Usbat al-Ansar leaders for the first time in the Ain al-Helweh camp. He met the group’s emir, Abu Mahjin, and his lieutenant, Abu Ubayda, also known as Jihad Mustafa, the head of the clandestine organization’s military wing.”
(Rougier 2007, p.233)
“80. (…) According to Mr. Abdel-Al, he obtained information about Mr. Abu Adass’s background, (…) the fact that he often went to Ein al Helwa, (…) and that he visited Abu Obeida (deputy to the leader of Jund al Sham).”
“197. (…) the Al-Ahbash Security Service had seen Mr. Abu Adass before the assassination in the Ain Al-Hilweh Palestinian camp together with Abu Obeida the deputy leader of the terrorist group Asbat al Ansar.”
(Mehlis I, October 2005)
“After Basim al-Kanj left for the United States in 1995 (to establish the “Boston al-Qa’ida sleeper cell”; t_d), Ahmad al-Qassam appointed people close to him to develop ties with Abu Mahjin’s group. Umar Yi’ali commuted between Tripoli and Ain al-Helweh, (…). Ihab al-Banna (…) also went back and forth between Ain al-Helweh and the capital to maintain ties with Usbat al-Ansar. After Ahmad al-Qassam was executed in 1997 for the assassination of Shaykh al-Halabi, Basim al-Kanj, who was now settled in Beirut (he returned to Lebanon in 1996; t_d), asked Ihab al-Banna to become the main liaison with Ain al-Helweh. Banna went to the camp at least once a month to give religion lessons to Abu Ubayda (…).”
(Rougier 2007, p.235)