A group calling itself the “313 Brigade” has claimed credit for yesterday’s car bombing in the capital of Lebanon that targeted Hezbollah members. The group bears the same name as al Qaeda’s military unit that operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan, although it is unclear if the two groups are one and the same.
The “313 Brigade” claimed credit for the Beirut bombing, which wounded more than 50 people in an area known to be a Hezbollah stronghold, in a statement that was released on its Facebook page. The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The 313 Brigade blamed Hezbollah, which it calls the “Lebanese Party of Iran,” and elements of the Lebanese government for intervening in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Syrian government.
“[I]n light of the vicious attack that patient Homs has suffered with the participation of the mercenaries of Hassan Nasrallah [the leader of Hezbollah], special units from the 313 Brigade carried out an attack with a car bomb,” the group stated, according to SITE, which said the 313 Brigade is based in Syria.
The 313 Brigade threatened to strike again in Lebanon unless Hezbollah halts its activities in Syria. Hezbollah is estimated to have sent more than 12,000 fighters to support recent offensives launched in several areas by the forces of President Bashir al Assad. Hezbollah is credited with helping to turn the tide in the town of Qusayr and in other areas.
“We will strike everywhere in Lebanon the gatherings of the Lebanese Party of Iran, and we will pursue the remnants of this terrorist organization anywhere in the world in order to stop their participation in spilling Syrian blood,” the 313 Brigade said.
The Syrian 313 Brigade shares the same name as the group that serves as al Qaeda’s military organization in Pakistan. There is no direct evidence to link the Pakistani and Syrian groups, but al Qaeda is known to have tasked top operatives and recruits to fight in Syria. Al Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria is known as the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant.
Maulana Asim Umar, an al Qaeda ideologue based in Pakistan, claimed in May that some leaders and fighters from the region have been transferred to the Syrian front.
“And now the black flags of East Persia are moving to Syria after Iraq. The Mujahideen have established their centers in Syria … in order to help establish caliphate,” Umar said, according to a translation of his statement that was obtained by The Long War Journal.
“At present, al Qaeda and other Mujahideen of Islam have fully controlled this movement.” he continued. “Several lashkars from Afghanistan are also leading in Syria.”
The Pakistani Brigade 313 is made up of members from the Taliban and allied jihadist groups. Members of Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jundallah (the Karachi-based, al Qaeda-linked group), and several other Pakistani terror groups are known to have merged with al Qaeda in Pakistan, and the group operates under the name of Brigade 313. This group is interlinked with Pakistan’s Taliban and also recruits senior members of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, a senior US intelligence official had told The Long War Journal.
The Pakistan-based Brigade 313 has been behind many of the high-profile attacks and bombings inside Pakistan, including multiple assassination attempts against former President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Gilani. The unit has also been involved in the rash of attacks on Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, including the assault and siege against the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in December 2009. It was led by Ilyas Kashmiri, a senior HUJI leader who also ran al Qaeda’s military committee as well as the Lashkar-al-Zil, al Qaeda’s military organization along the Afghan-Pakistan border. He was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan, Pakistan, in June 2011.
Brigade 313 is named after the 313 companions who fought with the Prophet Mohammed during the Battle of Badr.
For more information on Ilyas Kashmiri and Brigade 313, see LWJ reports, Al Qaeda Brigade 313 website goes online, US adds Ilyas Kashmiri to list of designated terrorists, and Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army.’