Cablegate: Lebanon: 2003 Annual Terrorism Report

Published: Fri 28 Nov 2003 03:06 PM
P 281506Z NOV 03
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: STATE 301352
Post's responses are keyed to questions in reftel:
A) Significant actions taken by the Government of Lebanon
(GOL) to support the global coalition against terrorism:
-- Lebanese authorities have arrested a number of individuals
suspected of supporting al-Qa'ida. In July 2003, Lebanese
security forces made numerous arrests in connection with the
April 5, 2003 bombing of a McDonald's restaurant in the
northern Beirut suburb of Dowra and with a planned attack on
a Hardees restaurant in the Achrafieh neighborhood of Beirut.
In mid-October, GOL authorities arrested a Yemeni national
purportedly linked to al-Qa'ida, Muammar Abdallah al-'Awama,
on suspicion of involvement in these actual and planned
attacks against U.S. interests.
-- GOL intelligence and security services have been
cooperative with Embassy requests for information and
support, and GOL security services have been responsive to
Embassy requests for protective security.
B) The response of the GOL's judicial system to acts of
international terrorism and/or significant acts of domestic
terrorism during 2003:
-- In May, a military tribunal sentenced eight people (four
of whom were in custody and four in absentia) to prison terms
of three to 15 years after finding them guilty of attempting
to establish an al-Qa'ida cell in Lebanon.
-- In September, a military tribunal began the trial of 35
individuals, separately and in groups, charged with planning
and/or executing the bombings described in (A), and also with
planning to assassinate the U.S. Ambassador in Lebanon and
launch a missile attack on the Embassy compound.
C) The GOL did not extradite or request the extradition of
suspected terrorists for prosecution during 2003. Although
the GOL has charged two residents of Australia, Bilal Khazal
and Maher Khazal, with involvement in the planned terrorist
operations described in (B), there is as yet no extradition
treaty between the two countries. The U.S. did not request
any new extraditions of terrorism suspects of the GOL in 2003.
D) Significant impediments to GOL prosecution and/or
extradition of suspected terrorists during 2003:
-- GOL security services and the Lebanese Armed Forces
continue to have very limited control over Palestinian
refugee camps in Lebanon, inside which a number of terrorist
groups -- including Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command
(PFLP-GC), Hamas, the Abu Nidal Organization, Al-Aqsa
Brigades, and Asbat al-Ansar -- operate.
-- The GOL remains unable or unwilling to exert control in
certain parts of the country, including portions of the Biq'a
valley, south Lebanon, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and
the Palestinian refugee camps. Syrian and Iranian support
allows terrorist elements to flourish in Lebanon, and the GOL
is powerless to challenge Syria's policy of maintaining a
Hizballah and Palestinian rejectionist presence in various
parts of the country.
-- The Lebanese judicial system is independent in principle,
but subject to political pressure (from influential Lebanese
politicians, as well as Syrian leaders and intelligence
personnel) in practice. To date, a court hearing in the
appeal made by the prosecutor's office regarding the
assassination of U.S. Ambassador Francis Meloy and two others
in 1976 has not been scheduled, following a court verdict
declaring the suspect, Tawfic Muhammad Farroukh, not guilty
of murder for his role in the killings.
-- Lebanese laws prohibit the extradition of a Lebanese
national to any third country.
E) Host government responses to international terrorism
other than prosecution included public statements by top GOL
officials condemning terrorist bombings in Najaf, Iraq, in
August; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May and November; and
Istanbul, Turkey, also in November. Also, GOL authorities
continued to cooperate with U.S. officials in the
investigation of a November 2002 murder of a U.S. citizen in
F) Other major counterterrorism efforts taken by the GOL
during 2003:
-- In October, the National Assembly passed two new bills
strengthening existing legislation against money laundering
and terrorism finance. Law no. 547 expanded existing
legislation on money laundering, making illicit any funds
resulting from "the financing or contribution to finance
terrorism or terrorist acts or terrorist organizations, based
on the definition of terrorism as it appears in the Lebanese
Penal Code" (which distinguishes between "terrorism" and
"resistance"). Law no. 553 stipulated penalties for "any
person who voluntarily and by any means, whether directly or
indirectly, finances or contributes to finance terrorism or
terrorist acts or terrorist organizations...." President
Lahoud signed the two bills into law later that month.
-- From January to November, the Special Investigations
Commission investigated 245 cases involving allegations of
money laundering, including 22 that were related to terrorism
financing. No accounts used for terrorism finance have been
discovered in Lebanese banks and financial institutions to
date in 2003.
G) The GOL provides no known material or financial support
to terrorist organizations. At Syria's direction, however,
it does provide safehavens and bases for several terrorist
groups. Syria allows Hizballah and Palestinian rejectionist
groups -- including PIJ, PFLP-GC, and Hamas -- to maintain
bases and offices in various areas of Lebanon, including the
Biq'a valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, Palestinian
refugee camps, and south Lebanon. The GOL is powerless to
challenge Syria by taking unilateral action against these
groups, either by disarming and disbanding them or forcing
them to depart Lebanon. Many Lebanese officials and
politicians routinely hail Hizballah as a "resistance" group,
while criticism of Hizballah invites retribution from Syria
or its Lebanese supporters. More recently (in response to a
circular on Hamas bank accounts issued by the Central Bank of
Lebanon in October), some officials and politicians have
publicly supported Hamas as yet another "resistance"
H) While the GOL has not made any public statements in
support of a terrorist-supporting country specifically on a
terrorism issue, many officials and politicians routinely
defend Syria, such as in the aftermath of the October 5
Israeli air strike on Syrian territory, which Israel claimed
was in retaliation for a suicide bombing on Israeli territory
planned by Palestinian rejectionist groups in Syria.
I) There were no significant changes since 2002, positive or
negative, in the host government's attitude toward terrorism,
international or domestic.
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