The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television station has identified the man it says is busy consolidating al-Qaeda’s presence in Lebanon: Abu Rushd al-Miqati. Citing its source as a “Middle East terrorism expert”, the television station says that the 56-year-old al-Miqat created al-Qaeda’s first cell in Lebanon in 2001, just months before the Sept. 11 attacks.
“There are many groups in Lebanon that can be said to be linked to al-Qaeda, and even the Lebanese government has never denied the existence of this,” Hazem al-Amin a Lebanese journalist working for the Saudi newspaper, al-Hayat, told Al-Arabiya.
“Right now, Osama bin Laden’s network still doesn’t have roots in Lebanon, but the recent statement by [al-Qaeda No. 2 Aiman] al-Zawahiri against the presence of international troops in Lebanon could prompt al-Qaeda to plot operations there,” al-Amin said.
According to Al-Arabiya, al-Miqati, is no relation to the prominent Lebanese family of the same name – based in Tripoli and of whom former Lebanese prime minister Najib Miqat is a member.
It also said that al-Miqati first gained his militant experience in the ranks of Jama’a Islamiyya, an al-Qaeda linked group based in South-East Asia, as well as years of study at Koranic schools in Pakistan.
According to the unidentified expert cited by Al-Arabiya, some 13 al-Qaeda cells currently exist in Lebanon mainly centred in the northern city of Tripoli, but also the capital Beirut and other parts of the country.
Many cell members are veterans of the conflict in Iraq, but did not necessarily fight in al-Qaeda-linked groups.
Al-Arabiya’s revelations regarding al-Miqati come after repeated warnings in recent months by Lebanese interior minister, Ahmad Fatfat, that al-Qaeda was attempting to establish itself in the country and his appeals to the United Nations to assist Lebanese authorities in curbing the terror network’s activities.