Beirut Airport Employees Arrested on Terrorism Charges

A traffic controller observes at the Rafiq Hariri International Airport during a strike in Beirut 07 October 2005.

Lebanese authorities arrested two Beirut airport employees on suspicion of aiding and abetting “terrorist parties,” security sources confirmed to Reuters on Sunday.

The Lebanese news media reported that the car of one of the detainees was loaded with explosives.

The pan-Arab Asharq Al-Aswat daily cited an “official Lebanese source”  saying the airport employees work for a private contractor that provides ground services for civil airplanes. The source told the newspaper that the two were allegedly in contact with a terrorist group, but the source did not name the group.

Al-Arabia cited a source stating of the suspects, “One of the two was in possession of a handgun, while traces of explosives were discovered in the car of the other.”

Lebanon’s Labor Minister Wael Zeeyter was quoted saying that the arrest is a testament to Beirut Airport’s top-notch security arrangements.

“There is room for improvement, but unlike what has been said recently, things are under control,” he said.

However, Reuters also quoted Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk as saying safety procedures at the airport are inadequate. He compared his own country’s airport to that of Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport, where a Russian airplane took off with a bomb on board that killed 224 people in October.

Two weeks ago, Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, a top jihadi operative in the Gaza Strip, claimed to Breitbart Jerusalem that the Islamic State has recruited agents among airport personnel.

In an interview broadcast days earlier on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” Ansari said that Wilayat Sinai will be at the forefront of IS’s battle against Israel, and that the days until the group carries out attacks on the south of Israel are numbered.

In the same interview, Ansari claimed IS has agents working in Western airports, metro stations, and “very sensitive facilities in the world.”

Ansari is a well-known Gaza Salafist jihadi allied with Islamic State ideology. During his most recent interviews, Ansari seemed to be speaking as an actual IS member, repeatedly using the pronoun “we” when referring to IS and seeming to make declarations on behalf of IS.

IS has been reluctant to officially declare its presence in Gaza for fear of a Hamas crackdown, but the group is known to be active in the coastal enclave and Ansari is a suspected IS leader. IS-aligned militants have taken responsibility for recent rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel.