Lebanon has become one of the worst impacted states from IEDs. Over the last five years the country has suffered 2,075 deaths and injuries from 39 IED attacks. Of these deaths and injuries 96% (1,991) were civilians. In comparison to other states severely impacted by IEDs, Lebanon has not encountered many IED incidents. For example, Yemen suffered 39 IED attacks in 2015 alone, causing 1,092 deaths and injuries. In Lebanon, it appears that many attacks use multiple IEDs and cause large amounts of civilian damage through using multiple suicide bombers or vehicles laden with explosives, such as car bombs.
In 2015, Lebanon only saw 4 IED incidents. However, there were 318 deaths and injuries from these – an average of 80 per attack. In 2013, the year Lebanon experienced the most deaths and injuries from IEDs, the country saw 1,174 deaths and injuries from just 11 attacks – an average of 107 per attack. The attack with the highest number of civilian casualties for the whole of 2013 was recorded in Lebanon. It was a twin car bombing of the As-Salam and Al-Taqwa mosques in Tripoli, Lebanon. At least 47 people were killed and 500 more were injured. The bombs struck just as Friday prayers were ending and were the deadliest in Lebanon since the end of the civil war. However, totals have not reached those seen in 2013 since.
Recent violence has typically targeted Beirut and areas in Beqaa Valley, along Lebanon’s border with Syria. The IEDs have been used by a wide variety of groups, particularly those affiliated to IS and al-Qaeda.
National responsibility for C-IED generally lie with the Armed Forces, Internal Security Forces and the Police. The Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces routinely execute counterterrorism operations targeting groups such as al Nusra and IS. Their military operations have recently strengthened and it has seen them become more effective at tackling terrorist threats. There have been a couple of high profile operations against terrorists operating in Lebanon. The counterterror campaign has seen not only increased military operations against the groups, such as raids on IS positions, but also senior terrorist commanders arrested.
The army has also claimed that it has foiled terrorist attacks. For example, in June the army claimed it foiled two IS attacks – one on a tourist site and the other in a crowded area. The intervention of the army also led to the arrest of five people involved. The Armed Forces oversee most border security and works collaboratively with other areas of law enforcement to prevent the movement of illicit goods or terrorists across the border. This is difficult given that the border between Lebanon and Syria is so porous and includes complicated terrain.
Other C-IED initiatives have seen the armed forces engaged in a concerted effort to counter radicalisation and terrorist recruitment. The armed forces have attempted to disrupt terrorist ideology from impacting youth by airing moderate voices on television, advertisements, social media and other communication outlets.
The Lebanese police have also been responsible for countering IED attacks and terrorism. They have arrested IS members, as well as collected intelligence from IED attacks. The security services were responsible for disrupting multiple terrorist networks throughout 2015. In 2015 they arrested Ahmed al-Assir, a radical Salafist cleric, who incited violence and hatred, as well as organised terrorist attacks.
The Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) coordinates the demining efforts conducted throughout the country and ensures they comply with national and international standards. The demining and other clearance efforts conducted by NGOs in Lebanon have been aided by LMAC’s assistance. They host training events and seminars as well as conduct awareness raising and risk education. They are supported by the UNDP and EU funding as well as the aid of various international NGOs that operate clearance activities in Lebanon.
In 2015, Lebanon purchased £29,000 worth of C-IED equipment for detection, disrupters and disposal of IEDs from the UK.
The threat IS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham pose has also seen Hezbollah involved in counterterrorism efforts. Christian civilians in Beqaa Valley have been trained by Hezbollah and they cooperate in the area to try to protect from extremist attacks.
The United States provided Lebanon with $2 million worth of bomb disposal equipment in 2014, alongside an increase of its military aid to the country, in response to the Islamist militant threat along the border with Syria. The equipment included three robots, explosive protective equipment, water cannons for deactivating IEDs, high tech X-ray equipment, and communications devices, as well as various other electronic tools needed by explosives experts.
In 2016, the US delivered three military helicopters to help Lebanon target IS, leaving 10 in their fleet. The US also conducts bilateral training exercise focused on C-IED and EOD with the Lebanese armed forces, such as Resolute Response 16, and the Antiterrorism Assistance program. The ATA assistance programme has particularly focused on building capacity at the border and in other areas of law enforcement.
The Lebanese Army was expecting to receive $4 billion worth of aid from Saudi Arabia, for weaponry and security. However, in February 2016, Saudi Arabia announced that they were cancelling the aid in response to Lebanon’s failure to condemn the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in January. However, there is speculation that it may be for a number of reasons, including Lebanon increasingly siding with Iran, in the many disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Regional support and initiatives
As a member of MENAFATF, Lebanon acts to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing within Lebanon and within the MENA region. These efforts hope to intercept the funding of terrorism and disrupt terrorist networks.
Global support and initiatives
In regard to terrorist financing, Lebanon is also a member of the Egmont Group. As such, Lebanon has a Special Investigations Commission (SIC), a financial intelligence unit that was established in 2001. This means that they investigate any suspicious transaction reports and ensure the compliance of such entities as the banks and financial institutions, in the hope of preventing the funding of terrorist acts and terrorist groups, alongside other financial crimes. As part of this work SIC staff attends regional and international training events and seminars. Many of these events target terrorist financing, such as the workshop organised by the IMF in October 2015 on “Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the MENA Region: The Supervisory Response” that was held in Kuwait and attended by three SIC staff, or the training course of “Countering the Financing of Terrorism” in London in July 2015 that was organised by the UK National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit and the Metropolitan Police.
As well as fighting IS in their own country, Lebanon is also a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Lebanon has been represented at many of the counter-ISIL meetings. Though their work continues to focus on the terrorism happening within their borders, it is thought that greater control of their borders and the terrorism in Lebanon will assist in preventing it elsewhere, particularly in Syria. Lebanon’s participation in the Counter-ISIL Coalition sees the state engage with the Counter-ISIL Finance Group.
Lebanon has worked in cooperation with INTERPOL on several terrorist-related cases. They have carried out investigations for INTERPOL and have facilitated further engagement. Other C-IED related international organisations that Lebanon is part of include the Arab League, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The UNMAS in Lebanon (UNMAS Lebanon) supports The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) by implementing its mandated tasks, and by assisting resource mobilisation by the LMAC as necessary. UNMAS Lebanon supports UNIFIL’s demining activities on the Lebanon-Israel border, also known as the “Blue Line”, through training, qualifying demining teams, quality assurance and monitoring operational sites. This enables UNIFIL to conduct clearance and ensures compliance with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and Lebanese National Mine Action Standards (NMAS).
UNMAS provides demining training to UNIFIL troops and conducts explosive ordnance awareness briefings for UNIFIL, civilian and military personnel, as well as risk education outreach to local communities and NGOs.
NGO, international organisation and private support
Lebanon has seen mines and other ERW cleared by organisations such as Handicap International. Handicap International has also provided victim assistance to those who have already felt the impact of IEDs, mines and other explosive weapons – they provide medical care and rehabilitation. Those particularly affected in Lebanon include refugees fleeing the violence in Syria. Many refugees faced the risk of explosive violence in Syria, where IEDs and mines had already been laid upon many routes. Now, they face further danger in Lebanon, where the danger in significantly less but the refugees do not know the terrain.
DCA is part of the ACT alliance (Action by Churches Together) – an alliance that consists of more than 100 churches and humanitarian organisations across the world. DCA is rooted in the Danish National Evangelical Lutheran Church, but is active in many countries in the MENA region and operates regardless of religion, gender, political beliefs, race, national or ethnic origins. Their main activities have surrounded protecting democratic values, disaster relief and humanitarian mine clearance. The Mine Action efforts have focused on:
- Clearance of Mines and ERW conducted in accordance with community needs, national priorities and International Mine Action Standards.
- Risk Education in order to keep at-risk populations safe through disseminating safety messages.
- Armed Violence Reduction reduces and prevents occurrence of armed violence and reduces the social and psychological impact of armed violence through advocacy within the national authorities.
- Victim assistance enables victims of armed conflict to be reintegrated into society; either through direct support – e.g. prosthetic legs – or through longer-term psychosocial support.
- Physical Security and Stockpile Management removes the threat posed to communities by unsafe storage of weapons and explosives.
- Emergency response, which aims to deliver time-critical humanitarian responses in crisis and conflicts areas.
DCA and NPA have been funded by ITF to carry out continuous support for landmine and ERW clearance activities throughout South Lebanon. The clearance operations are conducted in coordination with the LMAC, and last year 113,708 m 2 of land was cleared of mines and UXOs. ITF’s work in 2014 was funded by OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the US Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.
The US Department of State’s Office for Weapons Removal and Abatement have granted $1,170,266 to DCA for a project that will run from October 1st 2016 to September 30th 2017, that allows DCA to continue to undertake clearance operations. However, this work is predominantly carried out in South Lebanon, where the risk of landmines and ERW is high but the risk of IEDs is low. These efforts do help to ensure that the ERW from previous conflicts is not repurposed into an IED by militants.
Before the commencement of this new funding, DCA had 108 total programme staff in Lebanon – two international and 106 national staff. This was made up of three BAC teams, four manual demining teams, and one Mine Risk Education (MRE) team.
Mines Advisory Group (MAG)
MAG has played a very significant role in Lebanon and continue to do so as more people increasingly become at risk from landmines, ERW and IEDs. MAG has worked in Lebanon to clear the land of mines and other ERW, whilst their Community Liason teams visit affected communities to conduct surveys and spread risk education through leaflets, posters, dialogue and more recently drama. In 2014, MAG completed a Nationwide Impact Assessment survey of all cluster munition strikes across Lebanon, and the organisation is the only humanitarian mine action organisation in the Lebanese Bekaa region. Many of the team members are comprised of local people trained by MAG, of which several are also women.
In Lebanon, MAG teamed up with Clowns Without Borders to create risk education lessons that children from Lebanon and those that are Syrian refugees will enjoy and take life-saving lessons away from. Educational performances were used in schools across the country, alongside other educational games and leaflets that they can share with their families and communities. The children were taught how to inform MAG if they come across a device and the danger they pose. Not only does this help protect Lebanese and Syrian children from the dangers that exist in Lebanon, but will also protect the Syrian refugees when they can return home. MAG has also worked with the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation to create a play based on everyday dangers that the children could meet and what should be done to improve the situation.
MAG works with the LMAC to ensure that mine action activities are targeted towards community needs, enabling essential land to be safely released and allowing local people to live and work in safety. MAG is supporting the LMAC towards a “Lebanon Free from the Impact of Landmines and Cluster Munitions” by 2020.
The GICHD have been involved in Lebanon for a decade. The GICHD has provided significant support to the LMAC. The support provided by GICHD is particularly centred around support for the management of LMAC programmes and operations. GICHD’s assistance has also seen them aid LMAC in training efforts, such as those for mechanical demining and land release, and facilitate workshops in Lebanon on demining and other clearance efforts. Their work in Lebanon has led to several studies and publications, such as on the impacts of landmines and ERW on the country and its citizens.
Conflict Armament Research
Conflict Armament Research (CAR) have carried out research into IEDs mostly in Iraq and Syria, however they have performed C-IED in Lebanon also. In Lebanon, CAR carries out specific C-IED training on the ground. This has included a series of C-IED training sessions teaching evidence collection, data recording, different types of IEDs, countermeasures and component tracing. Though most of CAR’s C-IED work is self-funded, this project in Lebanon is funded by the UK government to build Lebanon C-IED capacity.
The NPA has been clearing unexploded cluster munitions in South Lebanon since 2007 and is currently operating in the country with seven clearance teams.
NPA and local partners also launched a Landmine Victim Assistance (VA) and a MRE programme in Lebanon in 2001. Currently, NPA operates with a number of BAC Teams in South Lebanon. NPA also assists LMAC in manual clearance methods, as well as MRE and mine victim assistance activities. NPAs operational approach ensures that the focus is on the actual threat, deploying manual assets to the areas where there is actual contamination.
It is worth noting that Bjørn Skodvin Hannisdal of the NPA wanted to make it explicitly clear that his organisation is not involved in any “C-IED work” in any country except in northern Iraq.
To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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