BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces have busted a number of terrorist cells in the past few days and arrested some of its members on suspicions of plotting terror acts, State Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud said Sunday.
In line with its sustained campaign against terror groups, the Army has discovered a cave in north Lebanon used by militants to make explosives.
“A number of [terrorist] cells have been discovered and some of its members have been apprehended on suspicions of involvement in security incidents,” Hammoud told The Daily Star. He refused to give details on the number of these cells and those arrested and whether these cells were interrelated.
Hammoud also declined to give details on the ongoing investigation with a French man arrested during a police raid at the Napoleon Hotel in Hamra earlier this month in connection to an alleged terror plot and a partner of the Saudi suicide bomber who detonated his explosives belt at the Duroy Hotel in Raouche last Wednesday, killing himself to evade arrest during a pre-emptive raid by General Security personnel.
“The investigation is ongoing. It is a security investigation whose details cannot be disclosed now,” he said.
A security source told Al-Mustaqbal newspaper that Lebanese security authorities have so far seized three dangerous terrorist cells. The source said Army Intelligence, General Security and the Internal Security Forces’ intelligence arm, the Information Branch, has each apprehended a terrorist cell.
The source added that none of the three cells had links to the recent suicide bombings in the Bekaa Valley and Tayyouneh, a main entrance to Beirut’s southern suburbs.
The Army said in a statement Saturday that as part of military intelligence’s continued efforts “to track down terror cells,” an Army force discovered a cave in the northern village of Fnaydeq used by militants to make explosives and confiscated books that included instructions on how to make bombs.
The security source told Al-Mustaqbal that one of the men arrested, a so-called “Obeida al-Assli,” was one of the main operatives managing the suicide-bombing cells.
The Army said that interrogation with Alaa Kanaan and Mahmoud Khaled, two detained terror suspects, led investigators to the cave on the outskirts of Fnaydeq.
Khaled confessed to the presence of a hideout, which he said people used to make bombs for terrorist attacks. The Army raided the location and discovered a number of bombs, weapons, CDs, phone cards and cell phones, as well as documents and books that included bomb-making lessons.
Khaled has confessed to stashing several rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition underground in his property in Fnaydeq. The Army then raided the location and confiscated “explosive material, RPGs, in addition to large quantity of metal balls used to make explosive belts.”
A raid on Kanaan’s house resulted in the seizure of 42 sticks of dynamite, 34 mortar bombs, 14 mortar propellant charges and 36 hand-grenade detonators.
Three suicide bombings have rattled Lebanon in the past week, raising fears of a return to the series of car bombings that mainly targeted the capital’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley region, where Hezbollah enjoys strong support. The deadly attacks, that began in July last year and lasted for several months, were linked to the war in Syria and were claimed by Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in response to Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad’s forces.A security source had told The Daily Star that military and security forces were on high alert, searching for would-be suicide bombers still at large and two explosives-laden vehicles.
The discovery of terror cells in Lebanon, coupled with the rising influence of the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in the volatile region has raised security fears in north Lebanon, political sources said.
Security concerns were raised especially after General Security released the photo of Monzer al-Hasan, a suspected terrorist who had provided the two Saudi suicide bombers with explosive belts. Hasan, 24, hails from the northern province of Akkar.
Hasan, a brother of two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Syria, has disappeared and is believed to have left Akkar to rebel-held Syrian territory after his photo was published in newspapers, the sources said.
Growing security fears fueled by last week’s three suicide bombings on the Beirut-Damascus highway in east Lebanon, Tayyouneh and the Duroy Hotel have prompted Shiite groups and institutions to cancel iftars during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which began in the Muslim world Sunday.
Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement said Saturday it canceled its scheduled iftars this year, citing security concerns.
The Amal-sponsored Foundation for Lebanese Martyrs said that its annual iftar Monday under Berri’s sponsorship was also called off.
Hezbollah reportedly made a decision to refrain from organizing iftars this year, days after a would-be suicide bomber told investigators he was part of a planned attack against As-Saha restaurant, located on the Beirut airport road and frequented by Hezbollah officials.
The would-be Saudi bomber, Abdul-Rahman al-Shnifi, was detained during a raid by General Security personnel on his hotel room in the Duroy Hotel last week, after his partner, Abdul-Rahman al-Thawani, blew himself up to evade arrest. Al-Shnifi revealed to interrogators a plot to carry out a double suicide attack against As-Saha restaurant.
The Al-Mabarrat Charity Association, founded by the late senior Shiite preacher Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, also announced it had canceled two iftars for June 30 and July 3 “due to extraordinary circumstances.” – Additional reporting by Misbah al-Ali