BEIRUT: Lebanese Army and security sources dismissed Monday media reports that Hezbollah had dismantled a terrorist cell operating in Beirut’s southern suburbs. The alleged cell was reportedly being backed by Saudi Arabia.
“These reports are totally inaccurate and we have no information about the matter,” an Army source, requesting to remain anonymous, told The Daily Star. Other security sources said the report was baseless.
In a report published Sunday, Iran’s official news agency IRNA said Hezbollah had dismantled a “takfiri terrorist” cell in Beirut’s southern suburbs belonging to the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
IRNA quoted security sources in Lebanon as saying that the cell was run by Saudi intelligence “under the guise of business ventures set up by Syrians and Lebanese.”
IRNA said that while Hezbollah stayed silent on the issue, the sources said the party has been monitoring two branches of the same bakery in the Haret Hreik and Bir al-Abed neighborhoods for the past year.
Surveillance documented that Saudi Intelligence has bought a well-known franchise bakery to allow ISIS agents to penetrate the southern suburbs, the report added.
It said the surveillance, conducted by Hezbollah’s security apparatus, documented that the business owner had sold the franchise to a dealer thought to be a Syrian national who had fled the war in Aleppo and arrived to Lebanon. The sources said the Army arrested the “terrorists” after Hezbollah handed over the evidence it had compiled.
Lebanon has been hit by a wave of car bombings, mainly targeting pro-Hezbollah areas in Beirut’s southern suburbs and Hermel in the northeast.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups claimed the attacks, which they said came in retaliation for Hezbollah’s fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria’s conflict.
Separately, media reports said Monday that detained Lebanese Nawwaf al-Hussein confessed to driving two rigged cars to specific locations, prior to their detonation in two suicide bomb attacks which targeted the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik on Jan. 2 and Jan. 21.
Hussein was arrested by the Army in the village of Jlala, Chtaura, east Lebanon, security sources said.
The reports said Hussein’s arrest was linked to the case of detained Omar Atrash, a Sunni sheikh who was charged last week with involvement in the two suicide bombings.
Three separate protests were held Monday by groups of young men in Tripoli who expressed anger at insults made by a preacher from the Msheik family against Atrash.
Protesters burned tires to block a road connecting Qibbeh to Majdalya in the neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, causing heavy traffic. Army troops dispatched patrols in the city in a bid to disperse the crowds.
Msheik made his remarks during a protest in the Beirut suburb of Hadath Sunday against rumors that the judiciary had made a decision to release Atrash.
Hussein Msheik, the driver of a passenger van, was severely wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in his vehicle last week.