The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Leila Hatoum: Intelligence warfare & the Missing Czech Nationals

By Leila Hatoum, Co-Founder

August 6, 2015

“Intelligence warfare & the Missing Czech Nationals”

On July 18th, five Czech nationals went missing in Lebanon, and remain without a trace to date.
The Czech government has kept its silence on the matter with barely a statement in regards to the the names of the missing nationals.
Without a demand for ransom, and with question marks drawn all over the background of three of those five nationals, it is imperative to understand the dimensions of the spiderweb of ties between multiple intelligence apparatus related to this case.
Security sources who are aware of the ongoing investigation conducted by the Lebanese authorities claim that Lebanon received minimal to no assistance from the Czech authorities in regards to information related to the five Czech persons.
The whole issue is sensitive due to the closeness of some of its characters to the Russian-USA and Hezbollah-USA conflicts.

1- Background:
The Czech republic detained a man by the name of Ali Taan Fayyad –last year’s April– based on USA’s request.
The USA alleges that Ali sold anti aircraft missiles and other arsenal to terrorist organizations including Hezbollah. In addition to allegations of illegal arms trade, the USA claims Fayyad plotted to target USA interests overseas, and used drug money for that matter. The USA has also asked the Czech authorities to extradite Ali to the USA.
Ali’s lawyers contest Ali’s continued detention and possibility of his extradition based on the below legal arguments:
1- No material evidence was provided by the USA that Ali committed what he is accused of.
2- If Ali committed such actions, it didn’t happen on USA soil, nor did it target USA interests and he isn’t a USA citizen, so he shouldn’t be extradited.
3- Hezbollah is on the USA terror list, not everyone’s.

2- Who is Ali Fayyad?

Ali Fayyad holds dual citizenship, the Lebanese and Ukrainian nationalities.
He was also the adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister on Middle Eastern affairs under former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukvych. Fayyad also worked for Ukraine state-run firm Ukrspecexport which deals in arms on behalf of Ukraine, prior to the recent military conflict in the country with Russia.

3- Sequence of Events:
Around Mid July, Ali’s Czech lawyer (Jan Svarc) arrived in Lebanon for a routine meeting with Ali’s family (that would be his 4th or 5th trip to Lebanon).
Along with the lawyer came a Czech translator (Adam Homsi), and two Czech media people: a reporter and a cameraman (miroslav dobes & pavil kofron).
Both reporters are unknown & work for a relatively obscure local Czech TV in a remote district.
A Czech man whose goes by the name Martin Psik accompanied the reporters. Psik was introduced by the reporters as their security adviser.
Accompanying the group was Saeb Taan Fayyad (Ali’s brother) as the designated driver.
The group of 5 Czech nationals and their Lebanese driver went missing on July 18.
Information gathered from various sources show that that:
1- The Czech ambassador to Lebanon visited Fayyad’s family in their southern town of Ansar on July 20th, less than 48 hours from the day the Czech nationals went missing.
No one from Fayyad’s family or the embassy has provided information on the content of this visit. However Fayyad’s family deny any hand in the disappearance of the five Czechs.
The ambassador’s sudden visit to Fayyad’s family raises multiple questions.
Was he there to see if Saeb Fayyad kidnapped the group? or to negotiate something else?
How did the ambassador learn of the disappearance of his five nationals if no one reported it? Was he contacted by the group that is responsible for their disappearance?
2- Both reporters were in Lebanon once before and had tried to acquire permits from the Lebanese security claiming they wanted to film a reportage related to the trafficking of ancient Syrian ruins.
Their second visit, was with Ali Fayyad’s lawyer, last month, where they tried to enter the town of Arsal but were turned away by the Lebanese Army as the area remains a hot military zone with radical groups roaming.
Arsal came under media light following the kidnap of Lebanese army and security personnel by Nusra Front and ISIS last year.
After they were turned down in regards to entering Arsal, the reporters conducted one interview with a Beqaa mayor from the Amhaz family who said their questions revolved mainly around Hezbollah, and the coexistence between Lebanese Beqaa towns of Labweh and Arsal.
Now this raises three questions:
How on earth did two obscure reporters from nowhere know about the static relations between the towns of Labweh and Arsal. Why would they be interested in those two towns? And if they are covering a story about stolen ruins, why did they ask about Hezbollah only, not ISIS or Nusra who are active in regards to selling stolen ancient ruins?
Another question to be raised would be: why would two obscure reporters hire a security advisor, when top international media outlets rarely hire a security advisor during an actual war?
3- Who is Martin Pisk?
Psik is likely a Czech military intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan and is specialized in Islamic groups, according to Lebanese security sources. But was his trip to Beqaa actually related to following up on the issue of terrorists groups such as ISIS being financed via the sales of ancient ruins?  Or was he actually covering an ulterior motive related to espionage and/or negotiating with Hezbollah in regards to Ali Fayyad’s case?
Whoever kidnapped the five Czech nationals and their Lebanese driver —if it was a kidnap sting- are professionals.
It is highly doubtful that ISIS or Nusra Front were behind such an action, otherwise they would’ve paraded them as hostages on their affiliated websites or even demanded a ransom as is the case in previous kidnappings. Neither a parade nor a demand for ransom were made by those groups, to date.
Had the kidnappers been any of the Syrian refugees or Lebanese clans in the Beqaa district, notorious for their kidnapping stunts in exchange for ransom or revenge, they would have asked for ransom, as it is habitual. But that hasn’t happened so far.
From what is gathered, two conclusions can be reached:
1- Either Hezbollah kidnapped the group to pressure the Czech republic over setting Ali Fayyad free, especially since he has been detained for over a year in Prague without being indicted of committing an actual crime.
If so, this wouldn’t be the first time Hezbollah lures in a target from abroad then hide him in exchange of information or the release of one of its own. Such was the case with the Israeli Mossad officer Elhanan Tannenbaum whom Hizbollah lured to Lebanon in 2000 and held him for over three years.
But that means that Ali Fayyad is very important to Hezbollah, and seemingly proves US claims in regards to his shady relations.
2- It might be US or US-friendly intelligence operatives who kidnapped the group to pressure the Czech government to
accept the extradition of Ali Fayyad, especially since there is a Czech Judge who has refused to sign the extradition decision so far out of a fear that Fayyad might receive inhumane treatment by the USA.
Fayyad will also prove to be valuable in regards to former Ukrainian-Russian relations and arms trade prior to the currently Western backed Ukrainian government.
What remains sure is that the Czech republic is maintaining its silence on the matter, and is not cooperating with the
Lebanese authorities in terms of the five nationals who went missing in Lebanon last month.
This, in turn, raises two questions as well:
1- Is the Czech republic negotiating with the kidnappers under the table over the release of Psik and the group, and doesn’t want to jeopardize the negotiations?
2- Are the Czech authorities aware of the nature of their officer’s mission in Lebanon? or was he —along with the reporters— working on a reconnaissance mission for the US or Israel in regards to monitoring Hezbollah in the Beqaa area and trying to find security gaps and a way out to reach radical groups in Arsal?

[Guest contributions to the Blog express the views of the author exclusively.]



Written by nickbiddlenoe

August 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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