Abu Ahmad al-Jumaa: A terrorist who provoked east Lebanon clashes

Abu Ahmad al-Jumaa: A terrorist who provoked east Lebanon clashes
Wed Aug 6, 2014 10:56:13

Just before noon on August 2, in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) arrested Abu Ahmad al-Jumaa, a Syrian militant commander who had recently pledged allegiance to the terrorists ISIL Takfiri group operating in Syria and Iraq.

His arrest sparked a number of clashes in the Bekaa town between his supporters and Lebanese security forces stationed in the area. But Jumaa's story and the significance of the August 2 events have repercussions beyond the small Lebanese town.

Jumaa had been a commander in the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), heading up a small terrorist group called Liwa Fajr al-Islam. He and his men fought in Qusayr throughout the spring of 2013. When the town fell to Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian government, he, like many others, headed to Yabroud.

In March, Yabroud fell under the control of the Syrian Arab Army. Jumaa, his family and his fighters moved to the outskirts of Arsal, in the no-man's-land between Lebanon and Syria.

The area has been rife with military activity since Yabroud's takeover. The terrorists had been fighting Syrian army units, supported by Hezbollah, over individual towns in the Qalamoun region for months. Battles have recently escalated with higher reported death tolls for both sides. Anti-Syria forces had been using this area, including the Arsal outskirts, to regroup and recuperate between battles.

But the arid hills outside of Arsal have also become home for at least tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, many from Homs and the Qalamoun region, who have fled the fighting in Syria. Hundreds of tents are packed close together just beyond the last Lebanese army checkpoint in Wadi Hmeid.

A few weeks ago, Jumaa pledged allegiance to the notorious leader of ISIL, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Since then, sources say, he has begun dressing fully in black and has grown a considerable beard. More dangerously, Jumaa had begun speaking increasingly of the Lebanese army's complicity in Hezbollah's actions in Syria. By letting Hezbollah pass through border points unchallenged, he argued, the Lebanese army would inevitably make itself a target for Syrian terrorists in the area.

Shortages in supplies and ammunitions have severely affected the fighting capabilities of FSA battalions, including Jumaa's Liwa Fajr al-Islam. By aligning himself with Baghdadi, Jumaa sought to access the ISIL's steady flow of food, weapons, and ammunition, and he has already begun to reap the benefits. Since pledging, his relatively small group of fighters grew from around 40 to over 300.

Jumaa is probably the first of many to switch, as several leaders of other FSA battalions in Qalamoun have expressed that their desperation on the battlefield may push them to pledge allegiance to the al-Qaeda breakaway group.

Jumaa's arrest has been a game-changer. Besides sparking ongoing clashes in Arsal, where a number of casualties have been reported, his capture has given his supporters the needed justification for specifically targeting the Lebanese security forces. His fighters have allegedly taken a number of hostages, at least two of whom are members of the security forces.

In retaliation, the Lebanese army has begun shelling rebel positions in the outskirts of the town with support from Syrian army helicopters. As the violence escalates, Arsal's community leaders are adamant that this isn't just about Jumaa.

BA/BA

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