BEIRUT: General Security arrested three people accused of belonging to a terrorist network that planned bomb attacks and assassinations across Lebanon, the security body said Tuesday. The three in custody were planning acts of sabotage by detonating bombs and carrying out assassinations in the country, according to a statement by General Security.
General security said it confiscated explosive materials, communication devices as well as a firearm with a silencer from the suspects, who were interrogated and referred to the military judiciary under the supervision of Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr.
Speaking to The Daily Star, a source familiar with the investigation said the detainees were two Syrians and a Lebanese. Twelve bombs ready to be detonated were confiscated from the three men in custody, each weighing between 150 and 200 kilograms, the source said.
“The detainees confessed they had partners who remain at large and who helped them buy [the materials], prepare the explosives, and specify targets,” the source said, requesting to remain anonymous.
“The network was planning to detonate bags and cars loaded with explosives at the centers of major cities and crowded areas in Lebanon, targeting districts inhabited by Christians and Muslims,” he said.
The source added that the planned explosions were similar to those that rocked the southern suburbs of Beirut and the city of Tripoli in July and August, which combined killed around 80 people and wounded hundreds of others. Those in custody planned to use bombings and assassinations to create strife in the country, the source added.
The source denied that the terrorist network had ties to any of the country’s political parties. “It operates on the order of external groups and organizations that have placed Lebanon on the top of their hit list,” he said
The source accused the three detainees of belonging to a dangerous terrorist group based on the size of the explosives security officials found.
“Preparing bombs of such size and specifying targets that would inflame the Lebanese arena are not amateurish acts at all,” he said.
Security bodies are also investigating a number of other terrorist cases, details of which they would disclose once preliminary investigations are over, the source said.
A General Security source, who also asked not to be identified, told The Daily Star that they had arrested the suspects recently in an area located between the Bekaa Valley and north Lebanon after watching the network’s movements for weeks.
“This [the arrests] aims at sending a message to other members of this network and to other networks that we are alert,” he said. The source refused to disclose the places where the attacks were planned to take place.
The explosions in Tripoli and Beirut’s southern suburbs came less than a year after a car bomb killed Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan in Ashrafieh. Hasan headed the Internal Security Forces Information Branch. Both Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and MP Butros Harb claim to have survived assassination attempts in the same year.
Following the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a wave of political assassinations targeted mainly March 14 officials and journalists between 2005 and 2008.
In its statement, General Security warned it would not hesitate to pursue terrorist groups as well as networks involved in smuggling people. It said it would carry out its duties in coordination with other security bodies to protect people and preserve security and stability in the country. – Additional reporting by Wassim Mroueh