BEIRUT: Security forces Friday arrested 17 men after raiding a hotel in Beirut following a tip-off that terror suspects linked to a plot to kill Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had sought refuge there, security sources told The Daily Star.
The sources said 200 police officers from the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch and General Security blocked all roads leading to the Napoleon Hotel on Hamra Street around 10 a.m.
Shortly afterward, the security forces stormed the hotel, searching rooms for suspects possibly connected to an attack plot that led to the cancellation of a conference in Beirut planned for Berri’s Amal Movement.
The conference planned for 10 a.m. Friday was canceled for “security reasons” relating to Berri, who was to attend the meeting, said NBN TV, a mouthpiece for the Amal Movement.
A senior judicial source told The Daily Star that State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud issued an order to raid the Napoleon Hotel immediately after the ISF informed him about “the presence of terrorists there.”
The source said the suspects being pursued belonged to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) “which was preparing a big terrorist operation.”
The source would not say whether the raid was linked to the cancellation of the Amal conference, but pointed to “the high risk” that surrounded the meeting.
Two hours later, six police jeeps were still blocking the entrances to Napoleon hotel with about 20 police officers preventing passers-by and journalists from approaching the facility.
The security sources told The Daily Star that 12 suspects of differing nationalities had been arrested in the Napoleon hotel, with another five people arrested around the area. The detainees include Lebanese, Palestinian and Pakistani nationals.
Security sources and witnesses said a police force also stormed the nearby Casa D'or Hotel shortly before raiding Napoleon, arresting one suspect.
At least a dozen young-looking detainees, hands tied behind their backs, being shoved into police jeeps along with their luggage.
Hotel guests were seen leaving the vicinity around 12:30 p.m. They told The Daily Star that security forces had only now allowed them to exit.
They said the security forces had seized the passports of all the guests, ordering them to stay in their rooms. However, the police only searched suspected rooms, not all of them, they said.
A senior security source told The Daily Star that the security forces were “working on thwarting a big security plot.” The source would not elaborate.
Meanwhile, a ministerial source told The Daily Star that the heightened security measures recently taken in Beirut’s southern suburbs and along the border as well as Friday’s reported threat against Berri were all tied to the violence in Iraq.
Security forces have also blocked several roads in and around the capital – including those leading to Berri’s residence in Ain al-Tineh, the Kuwaiti Embassy, UNESCO and the military hospital in Badaro – following the hotel raid and a car bombing attack about an hour later in east Lebanon.
The suicide attack that targeted a police checkpoint at the Dahr al-Baidar highway that links Beirut with Damascus left one person dead and 32 wounded.