Lebanon busts ISIS cell

Two brothers were plotting a series of terror attacks against LAF positions, Sidon political officials and Shiites.

Ain al-Hilweh. (AFP)

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s General Security has arrested two suspects who confessed to plotting a series of terror attacks in the country on behalf of ISIS, one of whom was purportedly the extremist group’s point-man in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp.


Al-Akhbar on Friday published a detailed report on the arrest of Jihad and Ziad Kaaoush, a day after General Security announced that it had rounded-up the two brothers who they said plotted to organize suicide bombings targeting political figures as well as Shiites.


The newspaper reported that Jihad Kaaoush—who General Security said confessed to being ISIS’ chief in Ain al-Hilweh—“received his religious education in Algeria, where he studied under sheikhs of various persuasions.”


According to Al-Akhbar, people who know him in the camp all say that he is “virtuous and calm, has been active in the field of preaching and is not involved in military activity.”


General Security, however, said that the cell intended to attack “Lebanese Armed Forces checkpoints, Lebanese and Palestinian political figures” as well as neighborhoods in southern Beirut’s Shiite-majority Dahiyeh suburbs during the Ashura holy day commemorated by Shiite Muslims.


The agency added that Jihad’s brother, Ziad, had met with top ISIS officials in the extremist organization’s de-facto capital in Syria’s Raqqa to coordinate “security operation in Lebanon” that aimed to “incite sectarian strife.”


Security sources told Al-Akhbar that the cell was preparing for an operation that would set the stage for announcing the creation of ISIS' branch in Lebanon.


The pro-Hezbollah newspaper said that the two detainees had confessed to placing Popular Nasserist Organization leader Osama Saad—a top pro-Hezbollah figure in Lebanon’s Sidon—under surveillance in preparation for his assassination.


The brothers also reportedly confessed to aiming to kill Mahmoud Abdel Hamid al-Issa—aka Al-Lino—the head of the Palestinian Struggle, Fatah’s security wing in Lebanese Palestinian refugee camps, and an avowed enemy of Islamists in Ain al-Hilweh.


According to Al-Akhbar, the suspects also “admitted to recruiting suicide bombers, planning to blow up the LAF base in Sidon and targeting the LAF’s checkpoints and the city’s al-Zahraa complex.”


The detainees gave the names of the suicide bombers they recruited to carry out the operations,” sources told the newspaper.


While General Security did not go into details on their arrest, Al-Akhbar reported that the two brothers had been captured ten days ago following a months-long intelligence operation.


Sources told the daily that the investigation began several months ago when one of Lebanon’s security apparatuses observed noticeable ISIS activity in Ain al-Hilweh that suggested “preparations for a big security operation.”


“After this, [General Security] identified seven suspects whose names and aliases were known and who had pledged allegiance to ISIS,” the report said.


“Another piece of information also came to light suggesting that the same cell was working to attract new arrivals, had succeeded in taking in many and had benefitted from the fact that they had money.”


The report also said that “stories were circulating in Ain al-Hilweh” that Ziad Kaaoush been arrested at Beirut’s Rafiq Hariri International Airport upon arrival from Turkey.


According to this narrative, Jihad Kaaoush then voluntarily turned himself into a local security branch after they called him to “come to [its] center for clarification about his detained brother.”


NOTE: The original version of this story mistakenly identified Jihad Kaaoush as a 15-year old. 

Soldiers at the entrance of the Ain al-Hilweh camp in Sidon. (AFP)

Security sources told Al-Akhbar that the cell was preparing for an operation that would set the stage for announcing the creation of Lebanon’s branch of ISIS.