MP Assem Qanso of Lebanon's Syrian-allied Baath Party challenged Beirut's assertion Al-Qaeda was not operating in Lebanon, saying the leading global purveyor of jihad had infiltrated numerous terror groups in the country.
“Al-Qaeda has infiltrated more than 20 fundamentalist organizations [that share similar ideologies to Al-Qaeda],” Qanso told the London-based A-Sharq Al-Awsat on Monday.
Qasano's remarks echo those made by Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn last month that Al-Qaeda militants were crossing into Lebanon from Syria masquerading as Syrian dissidents.
Ghosn’s assertion threw the Hizbullah-dominated government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati into disarray after both the prime minister and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel denied Al-Qaeda was operating in the country.
In his remarks Qanso told A-Sharq Al-Aswat that Salafi movements in north Lebanon and several areas in the eastern Bekaa Valley have provided “fertile ground” for the spread of Al-Qaeda in Lebanon.
Salafis, he said, also helped Al-Qaeda members infiltrate into Homs, Al-Qusair and Tal Kalakh in Syria “to fight in order to weaken Syria in an attempt to topple it.”
Qasano also said Al-Qaeda began to build its strength in Lebanon under the name of Fatah al-Islam from the time of the incidents at the northern Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in 2007.
Fatah al-Islam also operates in Lebanon under the names Jund al-Sham and Abdullah Qassam Brigades in the Ain al-Hilweh 'Palestinian refugee camp' in southern Lebanon, he added.
The Abdullah Qassam Brigades were responsible for a salvo of rockets fired from Lebanon in Israel in December 2012, which prompted an artillery counterstrike on the launcher's location by the IDF.
Qanso also accused Future Movement MP Khaled Daher, a fervent critic of Damascus over its crackdown on reform-seeking protesters, of being involved in the unrest in Syria, “given that one of his bodyguards was killed in Homs a few days ago.”
Future Movement leader and former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, joined by Lebanese Forces leader Samir GeaGea, joined Saudi officials in targeting Assad's regime and backing the Syrian opposition.
He expressed concerns that once the “Syrian revolution” is over, Al-Qaeda militants would flourish in Lebanon and the 'Palestinian' cause would be scuttled.
“If Syria falls, the last resistance bastion will turn into a state similar to that of Egypt or Libya and will become a breeding ground for Salafis and [Muslim Brotherhood],” Qanso said.
“In that case Hizbullah would be affected and Hamas and the Palestinian cause would be dissolved," he said
It remains unclear why Hamas and other anti-Israel terror groups, supported not only by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups in Egypt, but Al-Qaeda as well, would be negatively affected by such an outcome.