Security

Recent arrests highlight success of Lebanese army's anti-terror campaign

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Lebanese army patrol in Lebanon's Arsal region on the lookout for members of extremist groups such as al-Nusra Front and the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Lebanese Army Guidance Directorate]

The recent arrest of senior al-Nusra Front (ANF) operative Adnan Mohammed Salibi in Arsal charts another success in the Lebanese army's pre-emptive war on terrorism, military officials told Al-Mashareq.

The Lebanese army caught Salibi, who had served as a commander of ANF , now known as Fatah al-Sham Front, in an ambush in Arsal on October 18th.

Salibi had been involved in operations targeting army headquarters in Arsal and had frequented a local refugee camp, arriving from the sparsely populated hinterland before being apprehended after a period of surveillance, they said.

The arrest follows the August 26th capture of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) linchpin "Abu Bilal al-Qabout", who had been responsible for smuggling operations, in nearby Wadi Khaled .

Salibi's arrest "was a result of intelligence work and based on information available to the security services, particularly the army", said Liban Message movement president and retired military officer Brig. Gen. Khalil al-Helou.

Lebanese forces are continuing to arrest terror group suspects as part of a broader anti-terrorism campaign, he told Al-Mashareq.

The arrest of Salibi, and others before him, demonstrates the alertness and preparedness of the Lebanese security forces, al-Helou said.

"The army and all the security services and the people of Arsal are working together, which culminates in the success of the operations and the arrest of officials and members of ISIL, al-Nusra and other militant groups," he said.

There has been strong co-operation among Lebanese, regional and global security services, in addition to tip-offs from civilians, he said.

Despite Lebanon's internal divisions, he added, "combating terrorism and arresting terrorists will continue" because the Lebanese people "come together when it comes to fighting ANF, ISIL and other terrorist groups".

Maintaining security in border region

Salibi's arrest "is a testament to the successes of the security services and based on their pre-emptive strategy to uncover sleeper cells and take suspects into custody for interrogation ", military strategy analyst and retired Lebanese army officer Brig. Gen. Naji Malaeb told Al-Mashareq.

"The investigations reveal information that leads to the detention of prominent members of terrorist groups, such as Salibi and others before him," he said.

Salibi has a long criminal record listing numerous operations against the army and the people of Arsal, he added.

His arrest and that of others like him demonstrate "the army command is serious about maintaining the security of Lebanese border villages, as well as taking the initiative when and where it is needed", Malaeb said.

This "deters ANF members from coming into Arsal and has dealt a heavy blow to the group", he said.

Salibi is "a precious prize, because of the information he has on his group and other terrorist groups", said military expert and retired Lebanese army officer Brig. Gen. Wehbe Qatisha.

The arrest is significant in its timing due to the escalating situation in Syria and Mosul, he told Al-Mashareq, and helps to secure Lebanon's border.

Arresting Salibi and other extremist elements proves that "terrorist groups do not last, and that they are prone to infighting over power", Qatisha said.

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