Beirut airport shuts after closure of land crossings 

A worker sprays disinfectant. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 17 March 2020

Beirut airport shuts after closure of land crossings 

  • Confusion in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus was reflected in the reaction of the Ministry of Finance regarding the banks “decision to close down upon request by the employees” unions for fear of employees contracting the virus

BEIRUT: As the Lebanese government announced a state of public alert and health emergency until the end of the month to counter the spread of the coronavirus, work in public and private institutions came to a halt on Monday, including in banks.
Municipal police banned all forms of gatherings on neighborhood sidewalks and on the seaside Corniche, and forced shops to close.
Activists on social media had fierce debates over the issue of people who went out to the Corniche on Sunday, despite authorities’ calls for them to stay at home.
After the closure of land crossings with Syria, it was decided that the Rafik Hariri International Airport in the capital will also be closed starting next Wednesday at midnight.
Mohamad El-Hout, chairman of the board of directors of Middle East Airlines (MEA), told Arab News that the last four flights on Wednesday by MEA will include “one to Istanbul, one to Geneva, and two to Brussels.”
Engineer Fadi El-Hassan, caretaker manager of Rafik Hariri International Airport, said that the decision excludes “military aircraft, air ambulances, planes that cross Lebanese airspace, cargo planes, aircraft transporting diplomatic missions accredited in Lebanon, members of international organizations, UNIFIL forces, and people working for companies associated in oil and gas exploration.”
The number of people infected with coronavirus in Lebanon increased to more than 110. Hospitals in Beirut, the north, and the Bekaa started to receive suspected coronavirus cases. The hospitals confirmed that they had not received infection cases to date.
The American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) administration revealed that one of the cafeteria cooks, who served food for the medical team and hospital staff, had contracted the virus. However, it said in a statement that the patient was on leave when he showed symptoms. He was then transferred to the emergency department where he proved positive.
AUBMC administration assured that it “would not jeopardize food safety,” however it called on “cafeteria visitors to bring their food with them, in order to avoid crowding in the cafeteria.”

FASTFACT

Activists had fierce debates over the issue of people who went out to the Corniche seaside recently.

It turned out that the cook went to his hometown in Nabi Chit in the governorate of Baalbek-Hermel, and spent several days with his family and relatives who transmitted the virus to him. Baalbek-Hermel Governor Bachir Khodr said that everyone who had contacted the patient had been quarantined to make sure they did not transmit the virus. Khodr added that there was another AUBMC cafeteria employee who showed symptoms of infection, and was transferred to Beirut for tests. It is the first case in the northern Bekaa region.
Cases of coronavirus are not confined to one region in Lebanon. Previous cases were limited to people coming to Lebanon from infected countries; new cases were among people who had never left the country.
On Monday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab inspected the National Operation Room for Disaster Management and reviewed information related to the spread of the disease. Meanwhile, the Minister of Interior Mohamed Fahmy ordered civil public institutions to deploy a minimum number of employees to provide basic services, and limit work to necessary processing.
Confusion in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus was reflected in the reaction of the Ministry of Finance regarding the banks “decision to close down upon request by the employees” unions for fear of employees contracting the virus.
Minister of Finance Ghazi Wazni confirmed that he opposed the banks’ closure, saying that the banking sector is a vital and essential sector for people’s daily life, and called for the setting of work shifts.


New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

Updated 18 September 2020

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

  • CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.

“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.

Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.

The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.

Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.

Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.

While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.

The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”

In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”

Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.

Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.

But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.

“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.

“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.

The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.