BAALBEK, Lebanon: Military Intelligence arrested five men Sunday at the Harbata-Labweh checkpoint in the Baalbek region on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist group, a Lebanese Army statement said.
The statement said that at 1 p.m. Sunday, an Army patrol in coordination with Army Intelligence arrested Omar Mounawer al-Satem, Ibrahim Ali al-Breidi and Syrian nationals Atallah Rashed al-Barri, Abdallah Mahmoud al-Bakkour and Jawdat Rashid Kammoun on suspicion of belonging to a terrrist organization.
The Army statement said Satem was the cousin of Qutaiba al-Satem, who blew himself up in a suicide bombing in Haret Hreik in January 2014.
Lebanon's state-run National News Agency had said earlier that the men are suspected of planning a "major terrorist plot."
“Army intelligence agents apprehended a group of five people who were plotting a terrorist act,” the state-run NNA said.
A security source told The Daily Star that three Syrian nationals and two Lebanese from Arsal riding a minibus were arrested at a checkpoint in Harbata, as they were reportedly heading to Arsal hills to provide Syrian opposition forces with aid.
The arrests came two days after the Internal Security Forces' Information Branch and General Security raided two hotels in Beirut's Hamra district, arresting 17 people suspected of planning an attack in Beirut.
Authorites released 13 of them Saturday for lack of evidence, while the remaining four are being held for further interrogation.
Lebanese authorities had received a tip-off that an Islamist group was planning to assassinate Speaker Nabih Berri. Western intelligence informed security agencies in Lebanon of an imminent terrorist attack against a gathering, prompting the speaker to cancel a conference he was scheduled to speak at in UNESCO in Beirut, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk has said.
Shortly after the raid, a suicide car bomb hit a police checkpoint in east Lebanon, killing a 49-year-old ISF officer and wounding 32 other people. Authorities say the target of the attack was a location in Beirut, but the bomber had been intercepted by security forces and fleed back toward the Bekaa, before blowing himself up at the checkpoint.
The shadowy group Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade has claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying they could not “reach their target today, but they will do so later.”