Diplomats to probe case of Russians suspected of terrorism in Lebanon
The men are thought to be part of the radical Palestinian movement Fatah al-Islam and could face the death penalty if found guilty.
One of the suspects, who is still a teenager, is currently under arrest while the remaining three are still at large.
Palestinian refugee camp, Lebanon
The purpose of the meeting between Russian diplomats and the representatives of the Lebanese Prosecutor General’s office will be two-fold. First, it is to determine whether these four are in fact Russian nationals. Second, the diplomats will be informed whether the embassy will be allowed to have access to the imprisoned 18 year-old.
In fact, the group of four was charged on Friday, together with other 20 people. Currently, more than 330 people face the same charges of terrorism and alignment to Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon.
Lebanon has been gripped by a recent wave of violence including terror acts in one of the country's Palestinian refugee camps. Terrorists took control of one of the camps in May, while Lebanese military forces fought to remove them. It left about 420 people dead. In August, information appeared that Fatah al-Islam could be an affiliation of Al Qaeda.
It seems that these Russian citizens are from Chechnya. The Fatah al-Islam movement who now battle against the army, have brought some Islamic militants, who have been told that they would come to Lebanon in order to have some training and then go back to Iraq. Now there will be an investigation and trial afterwards. One of the Russians is arrested and three others have managed to escape,
Dr Imad Rizk is writing a book about the Islamist group, known as Fatah al-Islam. Its members are known to come from across the Arab world.
“Maybe there are some 12 to 50 persons who have come to Lebanon to have lessons about how they can make special attacks. When they finish the preparation, maybe, they will go to Chechnya, Pakistan, or Uzbekistan to make special attacks,” he said.
Rumours of Russians fighting in Lebanon have been circulating inside the country for some time. But the Russian Embassy in Beirut says it still needs to verify that this is the case. If true, the four men will become the first known non-Arab foreigners to be members of Fatah al-Islam accused of serious charges.
“We were greatly surprised by this news because until now we have not had information like this; no one from the Russian citizens took part in this battle and standoff between Lebanese troops and Fatah al Islam,” noted Vladimir Cherepanov, the press attaché at the Russian Embassy in Lebanon.
Meantime, some 10,000 Russian citizens live in Lebanon. While it is not uncommon for Muslims from former Soviet republics and Russia to join militant Islamic groups, the latest revelations point to the ever-increasing threat of global terrorism.
Experts and ordinary people believe that even if the suspects are found guilty and face death penalty, this will have little impact on diplomatic ties between the two countries as Russia is seen as a close ally in Lebanon.