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Beirut gas centers to shut down amidst fears of attack

Firefighters extinguish burning cars at the site of an explosion outside of the Iranian Embassy in the Bir Hasan neighborhood of Beirut, Tuesday, November 19, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Two centers for filling gas canisters in Beirut's southern suburbs have been ordered to shut down after security forces received information they could be targeted by terrorist attacks, a security source told The Daily Star.

Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouq said in a statement that he ordered the centers, one in Bir Hasan and the other in Ouzai, be shut down temporarily starting Monday, March 3.

“As a result of investigations with some detainees with regards to suicide attacks to assassinate Lebanese figures, primarily Speaker Nabih Berri and former Minister Wiam Wahhab, information was uncovered that suicide attacks were being planned against gas centers in Ouzai and Bir Hasan,” Machnouq said.

The centers would remain closed until their supply of gas runs out.

“In order to prevent gas shortage in Beirut and the southern suburbs, Machnouq contacted centers in Shouifet and Dora to meet the demand, knowing that one of the gas centers there belongs to MP Walid Jumblatt, who had suspended its operations,” the minister added.

Security measures were beefed up near Berri's residence Friday in the Ain el-Tinhe neighborhood of Beirut following media reports that a suicide attack was being planned to assassinate the Amal Movement leader.

Two local dailies reported that the Abullah Azzam Brigades planned to kill the speaker by sending suicide bombers to attack his residence.

According to the reports, Mahmoud Abu Alfa, a member of the brigades who is currently in custody, told interrogators that he was tasked by Sheikh Sirajeddine Zreiqat, a senior figure in the Brigades, with devising a plan to attack Berri’s residence.

Abu Alfa confessed that he monitored Ain al-Tineh more than once, estimated the intensity of the explosives needed to destroy the gates of Berri’s residence, and conveyed this information to Zreiqat.

Abu Alfa and a relative, identified only as "Hasan," were apprehended in the Beirut area of Al-Tariq al-Jadideh last month. Both were reportedly tasked with monitoring the area around former Environment Minister Wiam Wahhab’s house in Bir Hasan. Wahhab is an ally of Syria.

The Brigades have also claimed responsibility for the two double suicide attacks that struck near the Iranian embassy in Bir Hasan on November 19 and February 19. The Brigades have declared war on Hezbollah and Iran over their role in the Syrian war, and have carried out several attacks in predominantly-Shiite areas associated with Hezbollah.

 

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