ISIS preparing to declare Islamic emirate in Lebanon: sources

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ISIS preparing to declare Islamic emirate in Lebanon: sources
Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star/Feb. 23, 2015
ISIS is preparing military plans to declare an Islamic emirate in Lebanon very soon to serve as a geographical extension of the so-called “Islamic State” announced by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq last year, security sources said. ISIS fighters have demanded support from the militant group in northern Syria to achieve this goal, the sources said. They added that the ISIS command has begun preparations to set up a military organizational committee tasked with running Lebanese affairs and considering Lebanon as part of its state. However, ISIS is facing difficulties in choosing a Lebanese commander for this mission. The reported appointment of the fugitive preacher Ahmad al-Assir for this post was merely a trial balloon, the sources said.

 They added that arrangements to form an ISIS command for the Lebanon emirate were taking place under the supervision of the group commander Khalaf al-Zeyabi Halous, codenamed “Abu Musaab Halous,” a Syrian who had played a key role in the ISIS offensive to capture the Raqqa province in 2013. Abu Musaab Halous, accompanied by a number of ISIS military commanders, recently visited the Qalamoun region on the Lebanese-Syrian border, where he met with field commanders with whom he discussed the creation of security and military formations between Qalamoun and Lebanon, the sources said.

In addition to the fact that the adventure of setting up an Islamic emirate in Lebanon has not received the green light from the powers backing ISIS, the group’s attempt expand into Lebanon might be doomed to failure, the sources added. In the meantime, an influential party in Lebanon has received important information indicating that ISIS is bent on recruiting more suicide bombers equipped with explosives belts to target Shiite gatherings in Beirut and the southern suburbs as well as French and Western interests, while the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, which was targeted with a deadly twin suicide attack in November 2013, is still vulnerable to another assault.

As Lebanon faces growing security threats, military assistance to the Lebanese Army is expected to be stepped up to help the country stand on its feet. The United States will provide the Lebanese Army with six Super Cobra fighter aircraft as part of the U.S. military aid to the Army, reports said. The aircraft are manufactured by the Bell military helicopter company. Also, sources close to the military establishment said that America had agreed to sell some F-5 fighter jets to the Lebanese Army in the next five months.

This coincided with official and party security reports that terrorist organizations, at the forefront of which are ISIS and the Nusra Front, are preparing to launch attacks deep into Lebanese territory, not only from the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal, but also from along the eastern frontier. Manufactured by the Northrop company, the F-5 jets, first designed in 1950s and put into operation in 1960s, are used by some Arab armies. The aircraft has a range of 1,400 km with maximum speed of 1,700 km. The U.S. has already provided aid to the Lebanese Army including armored vehicles, machine guns and ammunition warehouses, which the military needs in its battle against militant groups on various fronts along the common border with Syria.