Thursday, August 18, 2005

Asbat al-Ansar failed in attempt to assassinate former US Ambassador to Lebanon David Satterfield

Chapter 6 -- Terrorist Groups: "Asbat al-Ansar

Description
Asbat al-Ansar, the League of the Followers or Partisans’ League, is a Lebanon-based Sunni extremist group, composed primarily of Palestinians with links to Usama Bin Ladin’s al-Qa’ida organization and other Sunni extremist groups. The group follows an extremist interpretation of Islam that justifies violence against civilian targets to achieve political ends. Some of the group’s goals include overthrowing the Lebanese Government and thwarting perceived anti-Islamic and pro-Western influences in the country.

Activities
Asbat al-Ansar has carried out multiple terrorist attacks in Lebanon since it first emerged in the early 1990s. The group assassinated Lebanese religious leaders and bombed nightclubs, theaters, and liquor stores in the mid1990s. The group raised its operational profile in 2000 with two attacks against Lebanese and international targets. It was involved in clashes in northern Lebanon in December 1999 and carried out a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the Russian Embassy in Beirut in January 2000. Asbat al-Ansar’s leader, Abu Muhjin, remains at large despite being sentenced to death in absentia for the 1994 murder of a Muslim cleric.

Suspected Asbat al-Ansar elements were responsible for an attempt in April 2003 to use a car bomb against a McDonald’s in a Beirut suburb. By October, Lebanese security forces arrested Ibn al-Shahid, who is believed to be associated with Asbat al-Ansar, and charged him with masterminding the bombing of three fast food restaurants in 2002 and the attempted attack on a McDonald’s in 2003. Asbat forces were involved in other violence in Lebanon in 2003, including clashes with members of Yassir Arafat’s Fatah movement in the ‘Ayn al-Hilwah refugee camp and a rocket attack in June on the Future TV building in Beirut.

In 2004, no successful terrorist attacks were attributed to Asbat al-Ansar. However, in September, operatives with links to the group were believed to be involved in a planned terrorist operation targeting the Italian Embassy, the Ukrainian Consulate General, and Lebanese Government offices. The plot, which reportedly also involved other Lebanese Sunni extremists, was thwarted by Italian, Lebanese, and Syrian security agencies. In 2004, Asbat al-Ansar remained vocal in its condemnation of the United States’ presence in Iraq, and in April the group urged Iraqi insurgents to kill US and other hostages to avenge the death of HAMAS leaders Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. In October, Mahir al-Sa’di, a member of Asbat al-Ansar, was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for plotting to assassinate former US Ambassador to Lebanon David Satterfield in 2000. Until his death in March 2003, al-Sa’di worked in cooperation with Abu Muhammad al-Masri, the head of al-Qa’ida at the ‘Ayn al-Hilwah refugee camp, where fighting has occurred between Asbat al-Ansar and Fatah elements.

Strength
The group commands about 300 fighters in Lebanon.

Location/Area of Operation
The group’s primary base of operations is the ‘Ayn al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon in southern Lebanon.

External Aid
Probably receives money through international Sunni extremist networks and possibly Usama Bin Ladin’s al-Qa’ida network. "