BEIRUT: Lebanon charged 14 individuals Monday for allegedly rigging vehicles with explosives, including one that blew up and killed a suspected extremist in east Lebanon. Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr charged the Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian and Turkish nationals with “carrying out terrorist acts and booby-trapping cars with the aim of detonating them in specific areas of Lebanon.”
Only two of the 14 accused are in police custody: Mohammad Nayef Atrash and Turkish national Mohammad Misbaheddine Ozamir.
A judicial source told The Daily Star that one of the explosive-laden vehicles detonated last week in a narrow valley separating the mountainous area of Arsal and the Syrian border.
Omar Atrash and a local resident identified as Samer Hujeiri were killed in the blast. The deceased Atrash, who hailed from the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal, was allegedly involved in planting explosives in Hezbollah strongholds and killing several soldiers around Arsal’s outskirts.
Local media have also reported that he was involved in two car bomb attacks that rocked Bir al-Abed and Ruwaiss in the southern suburbs of Beirut in July and August.
Atrash is also suspected of planning two rocket attacks in May that wounded four people in the Beirut southern suburb of Shiyah.
Sources acquainted with the investigation alleged that the group responsible for the attacks had links to the Nusra Front and were operating in Lebanon.
“The group ... has been carrying out a complex array of military and security operations, including providing Islamists within the Syrian opposition forces and members of the Free Syrian Army with arms and explosives bought from Lebanon,” the source said.
“The arrested Turkish and Lebanese nationals made confessions about a dangerous bank of security targets that the cell was working to implement. It included making car bombs and detonating them in specific areas, especially those where Hezbollah has great influence, including the southern suburbs,” the source added.
“Cell members were moving between Lebanon and Syria through the rugged mountainous areas, away from the scrutiny of Lebanese Army and security forces along the borders,” the source said.
The Army dismantled a rigged vehicle in the Beirut southern suburb of Maamoura earlier this month.
The judicial source said the suspects could face the death penalty if they were convicted.
Eight Lebanese, one Syrian and one Iraqi suspect remain at large.
The suspects in custody have been referred to Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda.
Separately, General Security said in statement that between Oct. 19 and Oct. 26, six people had been arrested for allegedly attempting to travel to European countries with forged passports and visas.
One individual was arrested for providing forged documents in return for money. Another was arrested for violating his residency terms and using forged documents.
The statement added that it had confiscated 14 Syrian passports that were being smuggled to an unidentified Arab country.
In a separate case, Military Judge Fadi Sawwan accused 17 Syrian and Lebanese suspects, 10 of whom were already under arrest, of launching rockets from the Kesrouan village of Ballouneh and the Mount Lebanon village of Aramoun at the southern suburbs of Beirut and around the vicinity of the presidential palace in Baabda.
The individuals stand accused of firing rockets toward a valley in Jamhour in June. One rocket hit a high-tension cable in Aley that supplied 150 kilowatts of electricity from the Jamhour power plant. The Army had disabled the second rocket.
In May, two rockets hit a car dealership near the Mar Mikhael church, while the other hit the balcony of a residential building in the Shiyah area.
Sawwan referred the suspects to the Military Tribunal for prosecution.
The arrested men had confessed during the investigation that they were being financed by a man residing in Turkey and that they launched the rockets in retaliation for a speech made by Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah following the Qusair battles in Syria.