Lebanon’s Saudis in a league of their own

10th Jan 2014

Saudis are seen to enjoy a position of seniority among groups due to their wealth and the ideological wellspring of al-Qa’ida and its ilk. (Photo: Haytham El-Mousawe).
By Radwan Mortada


Dozens of Saudi members of al-Qaeda are incarcerated in Lebanon, while dozens of others who came to Lebanon to “liberate it from its infidel regime” and establish an Islamic state, have been killed in the country. Saudi jihadis in Lebanon have been accused of involvement in many incidents, from the assassination of Rafik Hariri to fighting in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.

Jihadis do not recognize political borders between countries because they believe all the world is “God’s land,” and the land of Islam and Muslims is one. For this reason, one may encounter jihadis of all nationalities, brought together by a fundamentalist brand of Islam, crossing borders to fight until victory, or more often, death.

Nevertheless, not all jihadis are created equal. Indeed, Saudis are seen to enjoy a position of seniority among jihadi groups due to two factors: their wealth and the status of Saudi Arabia as a bastion of Salafi-jihadism – the ideological wellspring of al-Qaeda and its ilk.

Below are snippets from the history of Saudi jihadis in Lebanon, where Saudis have been sentenced to prison for forming extremist cells, carrying out terrorist acts, and involvement in criminal activities related to car theft, drug dealing, and fraud.

Fahd al-Moghames, born 1979, is another prominent Saudi jihadi caught in Lebanon. He was arrested in June 2007 and was also sentenced to 10 years in prison. A Lebanese military tribunal recommended the death sentence for Moghames, who led an al-Qaeda-affiliated group of Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian nationals in the Bekaa Valley.

According to the text of the indictment issued by Judge Rashid Mezher, Moghames left Saudi in late 2003 to fight US troops in Iraq. Moghames carried a false passport bearing the name of Ahmad Tuwaijri. Mezher noted Moghames’s movements between the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp and the Bekaa, and his efforts to create armed terror cells to instigate Sunni-Shia strife in Lebanon.

Next is Abdullah al-Bishi, born 1976, who is known by other names, including Abu Abdul-Malek. He was arrested in February 2007. So far, he has served five years and five months in prison, but he remains on trial in terrorism-related cases.

Bishi was one of the individuals arrested for their activities in the terrorist group known as Fatah al-Islam during the incidents of Nahr al-Bared. It was soon revealed that Bishi had been dispatched by al-Qaeda to offer guidance to the jihadis during their battles against the Lebanese army at the Palestinian refugee camp.

According to the text of the indictment issued by Judge Ghassan Owaidat, Bishi acted as “a religious guide for Fatah al-Islam and al-Qaeda.” Interestingly, however, Bishi said during his detention that most Saudis who joined Fatah al-Islam (62 people) had fallen prey to Shaker al-Absi, leader of Fatah al-Islam, who Bishi said had taken advantage of the Saudis to seize money from them.

The fourth most prominent Saudi prisoner in Lebanon is Mohammed Saleh al-Souweyed, who is believed to be one of the most important “men of al-Qaeda” to ever enter to Lebanon. All four Saudis were arrested on terrorism charges and for involvement in terrorist operations, according to investigations carried out by the Information Branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces.

In addition to those, there are eight Saudi prisoners in Lebanon, including some detained in terror cases and others in criminal cases. In the former category, the cases include the assassination of Hariri, Fatah al-Islam’s activities, and a series of bombings targeting the Lebanese army and UNIFIL.

One of the Saudi prisoners held for his alleged role in these cases is Talal al-Saeiri, born 1984, who was arrested in September 2007 and has yet to be sentenced by the military tribunal. Other Saudi prisoners include the following individuals, all of whom remain on trial: Mohammed al-Mutairi, born 1982, arrested in September 2007; Ayed al-Qahtani, born 1958, arrested in June 2007; and Mubarak al-Karbi, born 1978, arrested in September 2007.

While these individuals were arrested after the defeat inflicted on Fatah al-Islam, dozens were killed in action and buried in Tripoli’s Ghurabaa cemetery.

Fatah al-Islam’s project for an Islamic emirate in Lebanon was not the first one to involve Saudis, nor was it the last. To be sure, after a lull that lasted a few years, the Arab Spring has now turned, thanks to Salafi-jihadis, into a “Salafi Spring” across the whole Arab world.


This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.



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