Lebanon clamps down on terror-cells
Weapons and explosive devices were seized by Lebanese security forces during a series of raids across the country. (AFP/File)
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Security forces Tuesday seized weapons and explosives, including suicide belts and detonators, during sweeping raids in the northern city of Tripoli as part of a stepped-up crackdown on terrorism threatening Lebanon following last week’s deadly suicide bombings south of Beirut, security sources said.
The raids, carried out by the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch in Tripoli’s Qibbeh neighborhood, came after receiving information that potential suicide bombers were hiding there, a security source told The Daily Star.
A number of people suspected of ties to militant groups were also arrested, the source said.
The army and other security forces frequently carry out raids against suspected militants in Tripoli and other parts of north Lebanon as part of a crackdown on sleeper cells in the area.
Tuesday’s raids also resulted in the arrest of Ahmad A. and the seizure of surveillance camera tapes from cafes in Tripoli near a location where the man was arrested, the source said.
Information Branch personnel also deployed around Hamza Mosque in Qibbeh in search of wanted terror suspects, he added.
The source said the ISF raids followed confessions by a number of Syrian and Lebanese nationals arrested for their suspected involvement in last week’s bombings, that killed at least 46 people and wounded over 200 in the southern suburb of Burj al-Barajneh, and smuggling extremists into the country.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Sunday seven Syrians and two Lebanese have been arrested in connection with the bombings, while General Security said it had arrested a Lebanese man, identified as Ibrahim Ahmad Rayed, and a Syrian, identified as Mustafa Ahmad Jaref, who had funded and planned the ISIS-claimed Burj al-Barajneh attack.The bombings occurred on the same day security forces arrested a man in Tripoli wearing an explosive belt. Machnouk said the man, identified as Ibrahim Jamal, belonged to the same cell that carried out the Burj al-Barajneh attack and had planned a suicide attack in Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen neighborhood before his arrest.
Also Tuesday, the Lebanese army arrested more Syrians during a raid on a residential complex for Syrian refugees in the Wadi Khaled area near the border with Syria, security sources said.
Earlier in the day, the army said Mohammad Ibrahim al-Hujeiri, arrested for his alleged involvement in recent northeast Lebanon blasts, is also suspected of rigging five vehicles with explosives for militant groups with the aim of targeting Army posts and spreading chaos in the country.
“Investigations showed that Hujeiri and Abou Ali al-Yabroudi collected information concerning the timing and location of a meeting of the Committee of Qalamoun Scholars in [the northeastern border town of] Arsal. They tasked Syrian national Abu Firas with rigging the motorbike [used in the bombing] with explosives and parking it near the meeting’s venue to detonate it on 5-11-2015,” the army said in a statement.
At least four people were killed on Nov. 5 when a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up during a meeting of the Committee of Qalamoun Scholars in the Sabil neighborhood in Arsal. The committee is a group of Syrian scholars who deal with refugee issues in Arsal. A security source told The Daily Star last week that Hujeiri, better known as “Kahroub,” is the main suspect behind the explosion that targeted an Army patrol on Nov. 6, one day after the deadly blast targeting the Qalamoun scholars.
The army statement added that Yabroudi, Abu Firas and Abu Ali al-Asiri the next day planted the bomb that targeted an Army patrol heading to the site of the previous blast to investigate the incident, wounding at least five soldiers.
Hujeiri had also confessed that Yabroudi’s group had rigged five vehicles with explosives intended to target army posts with the aim of facilitating the entrance of gunmen to Tripoli, in an attempt to control a sea port, in addition to rigging 10 motorbikes with explosives to carry out assassinations in Arsal, the statement said. Hujeiri was arrested by the army in Arsal on Nov. 12.
The 33-year-old suspect allegedly confessed to belonging to Ibrahim Qassem al-Atrash’s group and participating in the preparation of booby-trapped vehicles. He also said he is linked to ISIS in the Qalamoun region.
Atrash, who is in custody, confessed in September to sending rigged cars into Lebanon and delivering weapons to extremist groups in Arsal and Syria.
According to the army statement, the “Kahroub” also had previous links with the “Jund al-Haqq” militant group, which was headed by Ons al-Khaled, but was compelled to join “Sayf al-Haqq” group after Khaled was wounded.
He later formed with Syrian national Amin Mohammad Ghoralli a group that includes Lebanese and Syrians, which launched rockets at the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel and monitored the house of a judge with the aim of abducting him in return for ransom. The same group transferred arms to militants in Arsal during the heavy clashes between the army and Islamist militants in the area in August 2014, the Army statement added.
Hujeiri also established a security group at ISIS’ behest to monitor members affiliated to Lebanese security agencies, it said.
By Hussein Dakroub
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