Four dangerous fugitives affiliated with detained cleric Ahmed al-Asir fled Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh.
The fugitives have been identified as the cleric’s brother Amjad al-Asir, Fadi al-Beiruti, Asir’s bureau director Ahmed al-Hariri, and Firas al-Danab.
Head of the national Palestinian security forces in Lebanon Mounir al-Maqdah said that he was informed of the escape by Islamist leaders in the camp, which is located in southern Lebanon.
A Lebanese military source refused to confirm or deny the reports.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the security and military agencies are carrying out their investigations to confirm the claims.
Maqdah meanwhile told Asharq Al-Awsat that the four fugitives have indeed left Ain el-Hilweh.
The Palestinian security forces and influential Islamist forces were trying to persuade them and other fugitives to turn themselves over to the Lebanese security agencies, he revealed.
“We were surprised however with the news that they had left,” he said.
The repeated escapes from the camp raise questions about possible security loopholes around the camp, whether fugitives have a secret passage out of the area or if someone assisted them in their operation.
A security source told Asharq Al-Awsat that investigations are ongoing to determine if other fugitives fled in another operation.
“If it is confirmed, then investigations will be launched to pinpoint who facilitated their exit and how they managed to reach the Syrian border,” he said, while not ruling out the possibility of a gang being responsible for such operations.
The four fugitives likely left to Syria through illegal border crossings on Lebanon’s eastern border, he went on to say.
Other sources monitoring the file said that the fugitives departed Ain el-Hilweh at dawn on Thursday and they had reached Syria’s Idlib late that night.
They told Asharq Al-Awsat that they left the camp using fake Palestinian refugee cards and names. They were taken to Syria by someone who is close to a powerful Lebanese party.
They entered Syria by using legitimate Syrian travel permits,” he revealed.
“After they entered Syria, they were sent to pro-regime figures, who transferred them to northern Syria in exchange for a high sum of money,” he stated.
The possibility that the four fugitives had likely escaped is bolstered by the death sentences that were laid down against them by the military tribunal in September.
The sources said that the fugitives had contacted their relatives through social media to confirm their arrival in Idlib.
Shadi al-Mawlawi was the most recent high-profile fugitive to flee Ain el-Hilweh to Syria.
The Nusra Front official is considered one of the most dangerous fugitives wanted by Lebanon.
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim had confirmed his escape and Mawlawi later released a recording showing him in Syria.
The four fugitives were convicted of murder and attempted murder of officers, soldiers and civilians during the clashes that took place in the region of Abra in the Lebanese southern city of Sidon in 2013.
They were also accused of terrorism, stoking strike and sectarianism, incitement to fighting and damaging public property.
The June 2013 clashes pitted the supporters of Ahmed al-Asir against the Lebanese army.