Jomaa Confesses: Jihadists Wanted to Establish 'Emirate' with Zureiqat as Leaderإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The jihadists who overran Arsal in early August wanted to establish an Islamic "emirate" straddling northern and eastern regions and linked to Syria's Qalamun with Sirajeddine Zureiqat, a spokesman of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, as its "emir," a media report said on Monday.
"Imad Jomaa, whose arrest sparked the clashes (with the Lebanese army), confessed during preliminary investigations that Abou Malek al-Souri, emir of the al-Nusra Front in Qalamun, and the 29 armed groups under his command had agreed before Jomaa's capture to wage a joint attack on Arsal,” LBCI TV reported.
On August 2, deadly fighting erupted in and around Arsal, leaving 19 soldiers, 16 civilians and dozens of jihadists dead. The clashes ended with a truce negotiated by Lebanese Sunni clerics, but the jihadists withdrew from the area taking around 34 captive security personnel with them.
The assault on the town aimed to “turn it into a launchpad for attacks against other Lebanese towns and against the Lebanese Army in order to create a bigger conflict zone stretching from Syria's Qalamun and the Bekaa to the (Lebanese) north,” Jomaa reportedly confessed.
An Islamic “emirate” was supposed to be subsequently proclaimed, with Zureiqat as its leader, the detainee added.
He told interrogators that he was personally tasked with “coordinating the operation” and that seven groups were supposed to seize control of the army's posts in Arsal before moving to conquer Lebanese towns in the Bekaa and the North.
“Dormant cells in several Lebanese regions would have sought to create instability,” Jomaa added.
He noted that his arrest sparked the premature battle with the army, which was supposed to start on August 5.
The armed groups agreed on a “pact” on how to “deal with the Shiite and Christian villages after carrying out the operation,” Jomaa said.
According to the so-called pact, “the Rafida, or Shiites, represent the first target.”
“The greatest number possible of Hizbullah's men and women should be taken captive and anyone above 15 years old must be killed should they show any resistance,” reads the pact.
Christians and members of other sects would be spared “should they stay in their homes,” according to the jihadist agreement.
The pact also calls for taking hostage the highest number possible of army troops, especially officers, and killing anyone who resists.
Jomaa was known to be a member of al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syria franchise, but a video that surfaced in recent weeks shows him pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, which reportedly appointed him as the leader of the extremist Fajr al-Islam Brigade.
Media reports have said that Abou Talal al-Hamad assumed leadership of the Brigade in the wake of Jomaa's arrest and that he is in charge of negotiating over the abducted troops.