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Khaled Mahmoud: A Prisoner in Lebanon Turns Emir in Syria

Al-Akhbar-Who is Khaled Mahmoud? The once imprisoned leader from Fatah al-Islam is now the “emir” of an armed group in Syria. Al-Akhbar looks into the murky comings and goings of the man rumored to be behind dispatching groups of young Lebanese to fight in Syria.

The Fatah al-Islam leader Khaled Mahmoud did not remain absent from the scene for long. Shortly after his release from Lebanon’s Roumieh Central Prison in June 2012, he joined the armed opposition in Syria. Six months later, Mahmoud appeared in a video, wearing a black turban and surrounded by militants, and declared the establishment of an armed group named “Jund al-Sham,” or Soldiers of the Levant.

Mahmoud bestowed upon himself the title “Emir Abu Suleiman al-Muhajir,” and called for “jihad to establish God’s rule on Earth.” Thus, a former prisoner in Lebanon somehow managed to become a military commander in Syria.

Mahmoud is widely believed to be responsible for dispatching Lebanese youths to Syria for “jihad.” In this regard, security reports indicate that Yahya J., a close associate of Mahmoud, is in charge of recruiting and then deploying Salafi groups to Syria, including the group that was ambushed by the Syrian Army in Tal Kalakh last November.

These reports confirm that Yahya, who is based in the Bab al-Tabbanehdistrict of Tripoli, along with Nader H. and Bashir M., are actively involved in the recruitment of Salafi cells, bearing in mind that the two latter individuals had been previously detained on charges of belonging to Fatah al-Islam. They spent one and three years in prison respectively.

Mahmoud, the emir, had reportedly entered the Syrian territory through the Mashari al-Qaa region of eastern Lebanon. From there, he went to the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria where he became the commander of the armed groups stationed at this historic crusader castle.

From there, he went to the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria where he became the commander of the armed groups stationed at this historic crusader castle.Shortly afterward, a number of Lebanese Salafis joined him there from Tripoli, and swore allegiance to him. Of those, the following individuals were identified: Samer R.; Wi’am Sh.; Abu Hamza O.; and Saad A., in addition to 15 others from Bab al-Tabbaneh.

In the meantime, according to Islamist reports, there has been tension between Mahmoud and a number of Salafi clerics, as a result of the clerics’ reservations about Mahmoud’s religious commitment. These reports suggest that the emir of Jund al-Sham is overzealous – even by Salafi standards – and some clerics see him as more of a gun-for-hire than a true jihadi.

The security reports link Mahmoud to Sheikh Hussam al-Sabbagh, and allude to the latter’s role in recruiting youths to fight in Syria. Other reliable sources familiar with the issue deny that Sabbagh has any links to the Tal Kalakh group. They maintain that Sabbagh is in principle against Lebanese individuals fighting in Syria, since “they would be a burden on the ‘mujahideen’ there, who have great numbers and only lack weapons.”

Further Information obtained by security services suggests that a Lebanese man from Tripoli was implicated in dispatching the group of youth from Tripoli who would later be killed in Tal Kalakh.

In the same vein, a Salafi sheikh told Al-Akhbar that the majority of young Lebanese men who go to Syria fight for three groups: al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham Brigades, and al-Fajr Brigades. The sheikh said that the three groups had no ties to al-Qaeda, but they nonetheless adopt methods similar to those pursued by the global fundamentalist movement.

The Salafi sheikh, who is close to al-Qaeda, said that in the past, the fighters who came through Turkey would exclusively join al-Nusra Front, while those who came from Lebanon went on to fight in the ranks of Ahrar al-Sham or al-Fajr Brigades.The sheikh pointed out that things have changed today, with al-Nusra Front enjoying a strong presence in Homs and al-Qasir.

This, he said, “began six months ago when al-Nusra Front was endorsed by many who have had a long history of jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq.” It should be noted here that the three fundamentalist militant groups are closer in ideology to the Islamic State of Iraq, which is an organization led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, than al-Qaeda, which is led by Ayman al-Zawahiri.

According to security reports, large quantities of assault rifles were sent from an Arab country into Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh shortly after clashes with the neighboring Jabal Mohsen. Furthermore, large stocks of ammunition, particularly RPGs and mortar rounds, have also made their way to the area. According to the same reports, these weapons are stored deep in the area’s slums, even inside several mosques.

It is believed that a retired Lebanese army colonel is involved in funding such operations, and personally oversees the distribution of weapons to young fighters.



Terrorists CAN make chemical weapons: FSA member said




A member of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) says the militant group has the ability to produce chemical weapons.

Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the FSA, made the remarks in an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency on Wednesday.

Dada stated that the group would use chemical weapons if necessary, and would use them only against the government of Syrian President .

“If we ever use them, we will only hit the regime’s bases and centers,” he was quoted as saying.

He also stated that the know-how comes from defected army officers.

On December 23, 2012, a commander of the Syrian Presidential Guard said that seven Syrian soldiers were killed after they were attacked by chemical weapons, which produced a toxic yellow gas.

Foreign-backed militants have repeatedly threatened to use chemical weapons against the army and pro-government civilians in recent days.

Earlier in the day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the conflict in the Arab country has claimed over 60,000 lives since it began more than 21 months ago.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence.

The Syrian government also says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals.





Saqr is involved in the Syrian crisis to his core




Both media and judicial authorities wait Future MP Okab Saqr’s reaction to the holidays gift he received from the Syrian TV: new recordings that included no infant’s milk or blankets but rather new devices and military aids.

As both media and judicial authorities expect that Saqr will blatantly deny the accusations and claim that the new recordings are forged, they predict another party of insults and political obscenity similar to that that the public opinion witnessed in the 1st recordings.

Meanwhile, well-informed Syrian media sources look forward to Saqr’s response because according to them, the more he talks, the more he will fall.

“Saqr is involved in the Syrian crisis to his core,” the sources mentioned, and noted that “he leads the Syrian militants from Turkey under the commission of the head of the Future Party Saad Hariri.”

However, Turkey and Saudi Arabia Kingdom blamed Hariri over the new recordings, and asked him to contain the implications of what happened.

On the judicial level, al-Ahed news site learned that more than 85 lawyers working in the field of human rights are preparing for a complaint file supported by around 71 documents.

The lawyers attempt to sue MP Saqr before European courts, in addition to the lawsuits filed before Lebanese courts.

For his part, lawyer Rashad Salameh revealed that he was still waiting the Lebanese prosecutors decision.

He further reminded of the general prosecution’s decision to conduct technical analysis for both recordings: the ones aired by OTV channel and those provided by MP Saqr himself; if he had already provided them to the Lebanese judicial authority.

On the recent recordings published by Syrian TV ,Salameh noted that he quickly briefed those tapes through al-Akhbar Lebanese daily.

“If we find new evidences in this tapes, we have the right to submit a memorandum to the Public Prosecution, including all details that would enhance the filed complaint against Saqr,” he clarified.

It is worth mentioning that General Prosecutor Judge Hatem Madi will combine all lawsuits filed against MP Saqr, based on the criminal correlation rule.

Source: al-Ahed news





Qatar, Saudi Arabia Funding Fugitive Iraqi VP against Maliki




TEHRAN (FNA)- Doha and Riyadh are spending huge sums to bring back the country's fugitive vice-president, Tareq al-Hashemi, to the country in a bid to topple the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, informed sources said.   

Hashemi, a politician in the Iraqiya bloc, fled Baghdad in December days after al-Maliki's government sought his arrest on charges he ran a death squad.

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani have provided Hashemi with extensive backup to fuel ethnic clashes in Iraq, informed sources revealed on Wednesday.

Meantime, Iraq's Al-Nakhil news agency quoted informed sources as saying today that Turkey has also provided Hashemi with a $4mln budget to stir unrests in Iraq's Western province of Anbar.

The sources noted that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have earmarked huge budgets for fueling ethnic strife in Anbar and Nineveh provinces.

Security forces revealed on Wednesday that several regional states, including Qatar, have paid $100 to each participant in this week's protest rallies in al-Anbar in support of Iraqi Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, whose bodyguards have been arrested on terrorism charges last month.

Al-Nakhil news agency quoted a security official as saying that after the arrest of Issawi's bodyguards, several groups affiliated to the regional states, specially Qatar, paid huge sums to their sympathizers in Anbar, Salaheddin and Nineveh provinces to stage rallies against the Iraqi government.

Maliki on Wednesday called upon Anbar protesters to end their demonstrations that have led to several days of blockage of a major road in the Anbar province connecting Iraq to Syria and Jordan.

The Iraqi premier said the protesters should "end their strike before the state intervenes to end it." "I warn you against continuing (blocking the highway), because this is against the Iraqi constitution. We have been very patient with you," Almanar quoted Maliki as saying.

The protesters have blocked off the key trade highway since December 23, following the arrest of Issawi's bodyguards on terrorism charges.

The demonstrators allege that the arrests were made on sectarian grounds and demand the release of the detainees.

Maliki, however, says the bodyguards were arrested following an independent judicial inquiry based on the anti-terrorism law.






Turkey Proved the falsity of its Islamic theories

Pirouz Mojtahed Zadeh :NATO has reportedly agreed to increase Israel’s participation in its activities in 2013 after Ankara eased its opposition to the move following the alliance’s approval of the deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey.

Regarding the recent position of Turkey, the political analyst, Pirouz Mojtahed Zadeh in an exclusive interview with Taqrib News Agency (TNA) delineated the issue.

“Turkey by committing such action proved the falsity of all its Islamic theories and proved that Turkey, no matter having Islamic or non-Islamic system, is the major basis of U.S for supporting the regime of Zionism in Middle East,” said the political analyst.

He went on, “Turkey’s officials showed their real nature of their policy in the Middle East

and proved this fact that they are the member of NATO regardless to their religion.”

The recent position of Ankara officials and their support of Israel and NATO members does not reveal anything except abiding by the rules of United State.

“So we concluded that from Jeo poletic and strategic perspective, Turkey with or without Islamic system, is the major basis of U.S for supporting the regime of Zionism in Middle East

“Turkey does not have any interest in Middle East, and after World War II the country cut its tie with countries in Middles except the regime of Israel,” the political commentator mentioned.

“Turkey through using such an alibi, that is the effect of chaos in Syria on the boarders of Turkey; tries to enter into the opposition phase with the system of Basshar Asad,” Mojtahed Zadeh pointed out.

“The Turkish officials actually claim that migrating Syrian refugees to Turkish remove security in this country,” he said.

“The bottom line is that these refugees also migrate to Iraq and Jordon, but no problem happened in those foresaid countries,” the political commentator mentioned.

Regarding Turkey’s Okay to approving of Israel’s status in NATO, and the potential peril threat other countries in the region such as Iran, the political analyst underscored, “ I do not observe any peril from Turkey, since the country is not in the position to enter into military operation against Iran.”

“Even If Turkey is after such aim, the U.S and NATO do not let this country to accomplish its goal,” he mentioned.

Mojtahed Zadeh went on,” from the other side if Israel wanted to attack Iran, the regime would do that before.”

“Attacking Iran questions the existence of Israel regime; so the regime of Zionism try to use different subterfuges to urge U.S attack on Iran, that all its attempts did not work considering up to here,” he mentioned.

The political commentator added, “Although the military power of Iran in this arena is considerable but we should not turn a blind eye to strategic and Geopolitics power of Iran.”

“The U.S when attacked Iraq and Afghanistan, faced fiasco; given that the country does not dare to attack Iran,” the political analyst mentioned.

“Deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey and on the Syria’s borders is nothing more than a show which held by the U.S under the title of Defense shield in Eastern Europe and around Israel,” he said.

“The silver point is that even these missiles showed before that they are not that much powerful; in as much as they could not stop launching Missiles by Saddam to Israel,” Mojtahed Zadeh said.

“In short, the military and defensive power of Iran and Turkey should not be compared with each other, since these two countries are each other’s neighbor and it is not expected that their defensive system faced the two countries with danger,” he concluded.

Source: Taqrib news agency


Washington Post: Clinton will do anything to avoid testifying about Benghazi

The new year began not with a cannonball off the “fiscal cliff” but with an outbreak of conspiratorial cynicism.

This time it’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose fall and concussion, followed by a blood clot between her brain and skull, has prompted an embarrassment of theories. The gist: That woman will do anything to avoid testifying about Benghazi.

Several commentators on the right opined via Twitter and TV, those most deadly hosts for the parasites of rumor and innuendo, that Clinton was faking her concussion to duck out on her appearance before congressional committees investigating the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

An independent report published last month placed substantial responsibility for the deaths on the State Department. Not only was security at the Benghazi compound weak, relying heavily on local forces with conflicting loyalties, but requests for additional security apparently were ignored or denied.

The sentiment that Clinton might not wish to testify on the matter is not without reason. It is hard to imagine the agony of knowing that one’s lack of vigilance may have contributed to four deaths. But the attacks on Clinton during her illness, essentially attacks on her character, have been cruel and unfair. What must the world think of us?

Clinton, who fainted as a result of dehydration after a bout of flu, hit her head and suffered a concussion, after which a blood clot was discovered. She had to be hospitalized while blood-thinning medications were administered and monitored.

Although her critics backed off once the clot was reported, initial responses ranged from “She’s faking” to demands for proof of her concussion.

One writer demanded her medical records. John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, called Clinton’s affliction a “diplomatic illness” to avoid testifying about Benghazi. Later he suggested that details were skimpy in an effort to protect her potential 2016 presidential run.

“I think it’s the too-cute-by-half approach that’s reflected in the absence of transparency that’s going to end up damaging her and damaging her credibility,” he said on Fox News.


Again, Clinton may well prefer to miss her day before the firing squad, but it is unlikely that doctors or a hospital would assist a secretary of state — or anyone — in concocting a fake affliction.

Besides, you can’t have it every which way. Immediately after the Benghazi attacks, Clinton took full responsibility for the events and was accused by Republicans of falling on her sword to protect President Obama. Now that she’s temporarily indisposed and unable to elaborate on her admitted responsibility, those same critics insist she’s trying to avoid taking personal responsibility.

The viciousness of the pundit class is disheartening and disgusting. And these days everyone’s a pundit. Got an opinion? Why, step right up to the microphone. If you’re “good TV,” you too can be a “contributor.”

Out in the hinterlands, where Americans consume “news” that suits their political proclivities, opinions are formed on the basis of what-he-said. Reputations and lives are ruined on the tines of pitchforks glimmering in the light of torch-bearing mobs. And those are just the “news” shows.

One doesn’t have to be a fan of Hillary Clinton, though a Bloomberg poll says that two-thirds of Americans are, to feel tainted by the relish with which she and many others have been attacked — unfairly and disproportionately. Susan Rice, who was Obama’s favorite to replace Clinton as secretary of state, comes to mind.

But this isn’t a problem only for women or Democrats. The rush to character assassination seems to be our only bipartisan imperative and is a blight on our political system. In this brooding age of superstition and portent, every misspoken word is a lie, every human error a hanging offense.

This is to suggest not that we be naive or credulous but that we seek some balance in our approach to discovery. At the moment, we seem to be ricocheting between hysteria and delusion.

Eventually, Clinton will have to step forward and take her medicine. She is slated to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in mid-January, though the date hasn’t been set. The nation clearly needs answers on what happened in Benghazi, and no doubt Clinton will provide them.

This is not blind faith in a favored politician but respect for a process that relies on accepted rules of order. We owe our representative to the world — which is to say, ourselves — at least this much.

By:Kathleen Parker

Compiled By:M.D

Political Analyst: Ankara, Riyadh Hatching New Plots to Topple Maliki Gov't

TEHRAN (FNA)- An Arab political analyst warned that the recent political turmoil in Iraq was the result of intensified attempts and new plots by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to overthrow the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Speaking to FNA in Baghdad on Saturday, Amir Mousavi said that countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Jordan are in pursuit of toppling the Baghdad government.

"The current moves in Iraq had been plotted even before the case of former Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in a bid to wreak havoc on the country," Mousavi said.

Mousavi noted that some regional countries are hoping to achieve their mischievous goals in Syria by creating a chaotic situation in Iraq's al-Anbar province.

In similar remarks last week, a senior Iraqi legislator also warned against the plots hatched by Ankara against Baghdad, and said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought assistance of some Iraqi tribal leaders to wreak havoc on Iraq.

Speaking to FNA in Baghdad, Shakir al-Daraji said that he has found access to "some secret information indicating that Erdogan has invited some tribal leaders from (Iraq's) al-Anbar province to direct Iraq's current crisis in Turkey's interest".

"Turkey is trying to make use of the crisis which started after the recent apprehension of the Iraqi Finance Minister's bodyguards in a bid to secure Turkey's political and economic interests," al-Daraji added.

The remarks came after Iraq, in a new upsurge of crisis, arrested the bodyguards of Iraq's Finance Minister Rafie al-Essawi for several terrorist operations.

Essawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiya political bloc, however, told a news conference on Thursday that about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members were arrested after security forces raided the ministry and his home "in an illegal act".

The head of the minister's protection force has reportedly confessed and admitted taking part in terrorist attacks, including bombings and assassinations.

Al-Daraji reiterated that the Turkish government's attempt is a serious threat to the security of Iraq and the region.

Earlier last week, another senior Iraqi legislator also warned against the plots hatched by Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia against his country, and called on his fellow citizens to be vigilant about such attempts.


Speaking to the Iraqi news website, al-Masalah, on Monday, Ezzat al-Shabandar called on the Iraqi government and the country's national political forces to be vigilant about a big plot paving its way to Iraq from the Turkish and Saudi borders.

Al-Shabandar also lashed out at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that Erdogan should not think that Iraq is the backyard of his armed forces because Iraqis can protect themselves well.

Erdogan, who acts in line with the US and Saudi interests in Syria, is trying to make Baghdad change its stance on Damascus through exerting pressures on the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and making provocative statements in this regard.

On Sunday, Erdogan told the media that he travels to the US not only for Syria, but also because he has Iraq on his agenda.