On Tuesday night in Bekaa Valley, a former soldier from Eritrea who is part of Hezbollah helped to scour through a huge cache of munitions near Baalbek, Lebanon. The weapons — around 37,000 small weapons and 22,000 anti-tank missiles — are believed to have been extracted from positions held by ISIS, whose fighters now control nearly all of Syria and Iraq.
The Canadians were accompanied by several militia forces. In addition to each side’s armed forces, Syrian special forces, the Lebanese army and a media platform called Raqqah Deveoq (Raqqa Watch) were also present. The Canadian contingent spent almost two days working at the Baalbek region in an area called Al Mraj. “We’re looking for booby traps as well as weapons that can be used against Lebanese forces,” said Canadian Brigadier-General Denis Broten, according to Canadian media outlets. “We’re doing our work openly, but with full respect for the safety of our colleagues and the environment.”
For Hajj Mohamed Raifi, the owner of the weapons, Tuesday was a busy day. “My company is helping liberate terrorists,” said Raifi, who told local media that he was from Eritrea.
According to local media reports, Raifi is not a member of the Lebanese government but is a businessman working at one of the Lebanese ports. “I do not conceal the fact that I’m the owner of the most wanted company in Lebanon,” he told the media outlet Raqqah Deveoq. He said that he cannot be held accountable for the weapons because Hezbollah control all areas in the area.
The Canadians were in the area investigating the origins of the weapons, which are said to have been captured following extensive bombings by the Syrian army against ISIS in recent weeks. A local television station cited intelligence documents saying that the weapons were brought into Lebanon from Syria through southern Lebanon and then transported across the border into Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. Israeli newspapers have also reported similar details.
One of the Lebanon-based media outlets, LBC, said that Raifi was intercepted with a Belgian identification card and traveling under a Lebanese identity, according to LBC’s sources.
The Canadian media outlet also reported that Raifi is involved in a number of offshore companies with a share in one of the firms. Most of the goods held by the company, called Azaklia, are believed to be manufacturing supplies to support Hamas. LBC has since been tweeting about their findings. The firm is believed to be located in Cyprus or Cyprus. ISIS sources told LBC that a Syrian-based Hezbollah commander, and six armed men including a child, were killed after the operation in Baalbek.
No one has so far publicly claimed responsibility for the shelling, but ISIS is believed to be the likely culprit. The BBC has reported that ISIS was linked to a recent attack that took place near Baalbek. But it remains unclear how many of the large munitions cache was supplied to ISIS.
The Lebanese foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.
On Monday, the remains of the artillery were placed in a truck to be brought to a nearby naval base. Sources told a Lebanese television channel that there were unknown fears that the shells could explode if they reached the sea.