"Khaled Taha, Ahmed Abu Adas, al-Qa'ida - a summary" by t_desco
The Lebanese daily as-Safir reported on January 13 that Lebanese authorities arrested 11 members of a terrorist cell, among them Khaled Midhat Taha. Later reports said that 13 suspects were arrested, but that Taha and another member of the group, Bilal Zaaroura, managed to escape.
Quoting "informed sources", Addiyar, an-Nahar, the Daily Star, L'Orient-Le Jour, al-Hayat, al-Rai al-Aam and the Lebanese TV channel LBC all confirmed that Khaled Taha was linked to the group. A source quoted by as-Safir even called him the "head of the Lebanese al-Qaeda cell", but to my knowledge no official statement has been made regarding Taha, and Ahmad Fatfat, the acting Interior Minister, avoided mentioning his name in the press conference on the arrests.
According to the first Mehlis report, Khaled Midhat Taha was a "religious associate" of Ahmed Tayseer Abu Adas, who claimed responsibility for the assassination of Hariri in a video broadcast by al-Jazeera. They were both students at the Arab University and "used to meet in the University’s mosque". Later they seem to have kept in contact by e-mail. The report further suggests that Taha may have had a hand in the disappearance of Abu Adas. Taha made a short trip to Lebanon on the same day that Adas left his home accompanied by a man who identified himself as "Mohammed".
Strangely, the Mehlis report contains no information on Khaled Taha's background. The Daily Star reported on January 21 that one of Taha's relatives is among the 13 arrested suspects: Amer Abdullah Hallaq, the son of Sheikh Abdullah Hallaq, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Beirut.
An article by A. Nizar Hamzeh (MERIA, Issue #3/September 1997) mentions Sheikh Abdullah Hallaq as the founder of al-Haraka al-Islamiya al-Mujahid, a movement that aimed "to recruit Sunni and Palestinian fighters in the Sidon area".
A Country Information Bulletin issued by the UNHCR in January 2004 confirms the presence of the Islamic Mujahed Movement in the Palestinian refugee camp Ain al-Hilweh on the outskirts of Sidon. It's current leader seems to be Sheikh Jamal Khattab, the imam of al-Nour mosque (Ain al-Hilweh: Lebanon's "Zone of Unlaw", MEIB, June 2003).
According to Bernard Rougier (author of "Le Jihad au quotidien", a study on the rise of Islamism in Ain al-Hilweh) Khattab is ideologically close to bin Laden:
Le cheikh Jamal Khattab (imam de l'importante mosquée al-Nour à Aïn el-Héloué) par exemple, considère que la lutte est mondiale, qu'il faut couper la tête du serpent et frapper les Etats-Unis; l'ennemi n'est plus seulement israélien. Finalement, ne s'agit-il pas de la même dialectique que Ben Laden ? Il existe probablement des liens organisationnels entre eux, mais ils ne peuvent être à ce jour prouvés.
Réfugiés palestiniens du Liban: Nouvelles dynamiques religieuses
The Ain Hilweh camp, and in particular the al-Nour mosque, is home to several Sunni extremist groups:
Usbat al-Ansar, which is believed to have received funding from bin Laden and al-Zarqawi and was among the first eleven international terror groups listed in President Bush's executive order of September 23, 2001; its even more radical splinter groups Usbat al-Nour and Jund al-Sham, which has claimed at least four bombings following the assassination of Hariri (three explosions in Christian neighborhoods and an attack on Iqlim al-Kharub); and the Dinniyeh group, formerly known as Takfir wa al-Hijra, founded by Bassam Ahmad Kanj, who had fought alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan and was killed in an uprising against the Lebanese army in the mountains of Dinniyeh in January 2000. Some of the rebels escaped to Ain Al-Hilweh and found shelter in al-Nour mosque, among them Ahmed Salim Mikati, who was detained in September 2004 when a car bomb attack on the Italian embassy in Beirut was foiled. Together with another al-Qa'ida operative, Ismail Mohammed al-Khatib, Mikati had also planned to attack the Ukrainian Consulate General and Lebanese Government offices in central Beirut.
According to the first Mehlis report, Abu Adas, the suspected suicide bomber, "had been employed at a computer shop in the summer of 2004, which was owned in part by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Sani, who was a member of the Ahmed Mikati and Ismaíl Al-Khatib network". The report also quotes al-Ahbash sources saying that Adas had visited Abu Obeida (who, in an apparent contradiction, is described as "deputy to the leader of Jund al Sham" and as "deputy leader of the terrorist group Asbat al Ansar") in Ain al-Hilweh.
Some reports suggest that Khaled Taha is currently hiding in Ain al-Hilweh.
Other members of the suspected terrorist cell also have links to the Jihadi groups: Hassan Muhammad Nab'a took part in the Dinniyeh uprising. His brothers Khader and Malek Nab'a were also arrested. According to Murad Al-Shishani, Khader Nab'a "is associated with the appearance of the Salafi-Jihadist movement in Lebanon, when the leader of the al-Ahbash religious sect, Nizar Halabi, was assassinated in 1995." Halabi was killed by Usbat al-Ansar.
Other members of the terrorist cell have reportedly claimed to belong to "Jund al-Sham".
Bernard Rougier reported in 2004 that four out of six mosques in Ain al-Hilweh were controlled by Salafi-Jihadist groups, which received support from "hommes d’affaires du Golfe". The other two mosques were controlled by Hamas and the Ahbash movement, both supported by Syria (al-Ahbash was also a tool of Syrian intelligence, as the Mehlis report clearly shows).