Six soldiers martyred in jihadi ambushBookmark this
BAALBEK, Lebanon: Six Lebanese soldiers were killed and one wounded Tuesday in an ambush by militants near the Syrian border, on the same day that the military’s apparent arrest of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s wife and child was made public.
Unidentified militants ambushed an Army patrol on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek in the northeast, the military said.
According to an Army statement, a military unit was ambushed by a “terrorist group” around 5:10 p.m. during a routine patrol. The ensuing clashes between the Army and militants killed six soldiers and wounded one, the statement added. Militant casualties were not known.
Sources told The Daily Star the patrol came under fire in the village of Tal al-Sayl on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek. The troops attempted to communicate with central command in Ras Baalbek to inform them of the attack, but the communication was suddenly interrupted, sources said.
The affiliations of the militants were not immediately known. But the Army has routinely clashed with jihadi militants from both the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and ISIS on the eastern and northeastern border.
The attack came on the same day that the arrest of a woman believed to be the wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as well as the arrest of the wife of a Nusra Front commander, were made public by media outlets.
News emerged Tuesday that Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, one of Baghdadi’s wives, and their child, were arrested by the Army while trying to enter Lebanon from Syria more than a week ago using fake IDs.
Separately, Lebanese authorities also arrested the wife of Nusra Front commander Anas Sharkas.
It was unclear if the attack came in response to the news of their arrests. But jihadi groups operating in Lebanon have typically responded to arrests of its members with attacks on Army targets.
The arrest of jihadi militant Imad Ahmad Jomaa in August sparked five days of clashes between the Army and militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS in the northeast town of Arsal, which killed dozens.
Tuesday’s ambush was the latest in a series of attacks on the Army by Islamist militants across the country.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam called Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi to offer his condolences over the fallen soldiers, while expressing hope that the wounded would recover quickly.
Salam, who ended a two-day official visit to Brussels Tuesday, also expressed solidarity with the Army, saying that all of Lebanon stood behind the military in its battle against terrorism.
ISIS and the Nusra Front are still holding 26 Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive on the outskirts of Arsal.
Lebanon is still waiting on badly needed foreign military aid, including a promised two Saudi packages worth a combined amount of $4 billion.
Speaking to The Daily Star, an Army source also confirmed that Intelligence officers arrested ISIS chief Baghdadi’s wife and their son more than a week ago as they tried to enter Lebanon from Syria using fake IDs after receiving a tip from Western intelligence agencies.
The source identified the wife as Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, who was one of the prisoners released earlier this year from Syrian jails in exchange for the 13 Maaloula nuns abducted by the Nusra Front last December.
A separate security source said Baghdadi’s wife was arrested at the northern Abboudieh border crossing.
Reports differed about whether the child in question was male or female. Reuters, citing a “senior Lebanese security official” reported that the wife was stopped with one of their daughters nine days ago, and that DNA tests confirmed it was Baghdadi’s child. But a judicial source told The Daily Star that interrogations were currently focusing on revealing whether the suspect in question was in fact Baghdadi’s wife.
The Army Intelligence was interrogating Dulaimi under the supervision of Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr, the source said.
The source confirmed that Dulaimi was in fact detained by the Syrian regime and was released as part of a trade-off to secure the release of the Maaloula hostages.
Investigations are not restricted to identifying Dulaimi’s relationship to Baghdadi, but are also attempting to establish whether her entry is linked to a potential terrorist operation, and are also looking in to her ability to communicate with ISIS cells in Lebanon. The judicial source did not confirm or deny whether her child was also detained because “publicizing this information would negatively impact investigations,” he said.
Anadolu News agency quoted Nusra Front members as saying the Lebanese government has demonstrated weakness by arresting women and children, threatening to kill all the captive servicemen to take revenge for any person whose honor was violated.
When asked about implicating Dulaimi in a swap deal to secure the release of the Lebanese captives, the judicial source said that the decision falls on the government and not the judiciary.
Speaking to Lebanese expatriates in Belgium earlier Tuesday, Salam had reiterated that his government would not be blackmailed by the jihadi captors of Lebanese servicemen, stressing that negotiations for their liberation should be conducted according to certain norms and rules.
“We are entrusted with the lives of our heroes, but we will not bow to blackmail. Let no one try to blackmail 4 million Lebanese people, or attempt to blackmail the Lebanese Army,” Salam told the Lebanese expatriates.
He said he had contacted Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani to urge him to revive Qatari mediation to secure the release of the servicemen. The emir stressed his desire to assist Lebanon on the issue and said he would direct those involved in the file to take necessary measures.
Meanwhile, General Security denied Tuesday releasing Free Syrian Army commander Abdullah Hussein Rifai, while announcing that his freedom was contingent on negotiations to secure the release of Lebanese captives held by jihadis. The statement denied rumors that the detainee was handed over to Hezbollah for the purpose of a swap deal that secured the release of one of the party’s fighters who was freed by the FSA last week.