Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 4   No. 11-12 Table of Contents
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November-December 2002 


Intelligence Briefs: Lebanon

American Missionary Murdered, More Restaurant Bombings
Mughniyah Reportedly Plotting Terror Attacks
Syria Cancels Meeting with Relatives of Lebanese Detainees
Hindi, Younes Released
Beqaa Residents Protest Killings by Syrian Troops

American Missionary Murdered, More Restaurant Bombings

The murder of an American missionary on November 21 - the first time an American has been killed in Lebanon in 10 years - has raised concerns that US citizens and interests in the country are more at risk than at any time since the end of the civil war in 1990. Bonnie Penner, 31, was shot dead at around 8 a.m. at the Unity Center chapel and a clinic in the southern city of Sidon.

During the pre-dawn hours of November 12, three American fast food franchises were bombed almost simultaneously in Lebanon, causing extensive damage but no casualties. The restaurants - a Pizza Hut in Jounieh, a Pizza Hut in Tripoli, and a Winners restaurant in Ghazir - were each hit by TNT explosive charges, which destroyed windows and damaged the exterior walls and indoor furniture. The bombings prompted the American embassies in Beirut and Damascus to issue identical statements urging US citizens in Lebanon and Syria to exercise caution. "The US embassy in Beirut is in close contact and working with Lebanese officials to determine the exact nature of these attacks," said the statement, adding, "We do not know if these attacks were motivated by terrorism."

In May, a building housing Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hardee's franchises was heavily damaged by an explosion. In October, a bomb exploded in the parking lot of a McDonalds in Jounieh, damaging three parked cars. Owners of American fast food franchises in Lebanon have begun placing advertisements in the print media denying rumors that they send a percentage of their annual profits to Israel. The only American fast-food chain in Lebanon which has not been hit yet is Burger King.

Pro-Syrian political figures have deliberately fanned anti-American sentiment in Lebanon. On November 7, a member of the Lebanese parliament, Marjayoun-Hasbaya MP Qassem Hashem, declared that a recent visit by US embassy commercial attaché Richard Johnson to Nabatieh in south Lebanon was "aimed at spying for the Israeli enemy's interests."

Mughniyah Reportedly Plotting Terror Attacks

According to CNN, the former head of special overseas operations for Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyah, has begun coordinating with Al-Qaida commanders to plot a new wave of terrorist attacks on US and Israeli targets in the Western hemisphere. The report cited "coalition intelligence sources" as saying that terrorist operatives recently met in the Triple Frontier area of South America, where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay intersect plan the attacks. According to Argentina's intelligence chief, Miguel Touma, the terror campaign would be timed "to prevent or react to an attack on Iraq."

Syria Cancels Meeting with Relatives of Lebanese Detainees

The hopes of relatives of Lebanese detainees illegally held in Syrian prisons were dashed earlier this month when the authorities in Damascus canceled a scheduled meeting with them to discuss the issue. In July, a delegation from the Committee of Families of Detainees in Syrian Prisons traveled to Syria unannounced and, to their surprise, were invited to a meeting with Interior Minister Ali Hamoud and Prisons Director Maj.-Gen. Bughaws Siraj, who received their list of 174 Lebanese detainees and promised to meet again with them in three months after investigating the issue. Afterwards, the head of the committee, Sonia Eid, praised the good intentions of President Assad.

After three months of waiting, they got in touch with the Syrian Interior Ministry and were invited to return to Damascus on November 2 for a follow-up meeting with Hammoud. Upon their arrival at a customs station on the Syrian side of the border, however, they were told that the interior minister was "on a trip and will not be back for at least a month."

Hindi, Younes Released

Toufic Hindi, the political advisor of jailed Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, was released from Roumieh prison on November 9. Hindi was arrested in August 2001 and convicted of collaborating with Israel. Although the government broadcast a videotaped confession by Hindi on national television, he later testified that he agreed to read the statement after undergoing physical and psychological abuse in custody. On November 19, journalist Habib Younes was released upon completing a 15-month sentence. Younes was convicted of receiving money from Israeli sources, a charge he has denied.

Beqaa Residents Protest Killings by Syrian Troops

Residents and mayors of villages in the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon submitted a petition to the government late last month, demanding an inquiry into the death of a Lebanese motorist at a Syrian checkpoint. Suleiman Ali Ismael was shot to death and his passenger, Ali Younes, wounded by Syrian soldiers at a checkpoint near Baalbek on October 28. The petition called on the authorities to "open an inquiry and punish those responsible for this crime."

On October 25, a 30-year-old woman, Maha Shaar, and her two-year-old son were stabbed to death by a Syrian worker in the Aley district. The Syrian, who formerly worked in a shop owned by Shaar's husband before quitting several months ago, returned and demanded his job back. The latter refused, providing the apparent motivation for the attack.


2002 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.
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