BEIRUT: ISIS had initially planned to target a hospital in the southern suburbs of Beirut Thursday by using four instead of two suicide bombers, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Sunday.
“The Burj al-Barajneh bombings were meant to take place at the Rassoul al-Aazam hospital in the same area, however tight security measures around the hospital prevented this from happening,” Machnouk said during a press conference at the Internal Security Forces headquarters in Beirut.
The hospital is known to treat many Hezbollah fighters wounded in Syria, where the party has been directly involved in the war there since 2013.
Machnouk said that five members of a "terrorist" network had originally planned to blow themselves up in two different locations and not just in the southern Beirut suburb. The five included the two that carried out the attack, another two members who he said were in Syria at the time, and a Lebanese national who had been arrested in the northern city of Tripoli Thursday morning for planning an attack there.
Machnouk’s media office told The Daily Star that Ibrahim Jamal had planned to carry out a suicide attack in the city’s Jabal Mohsen area before being arrested.
During his arrest, Jamal attempted to detonate an explosives belt, but a technical fault prevented him from doing so. He had illegally re-entered the country through the northern Bekaa region according to Machnouk.
Another eight people linked to the attack were arrested Saturday, included seven Syrians and another Lebanese.
Some of the Syrian nationals, according to Machnouk, had rented out an apartment in Beirut’s Ashrafiyeh neighborhood where they assembled the explosives and were in contact with a man called ‘Abu Walid’ in Syria’s Raqqa province, ISIS’s stronghold. The others, he said, were staying at the Burj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp.
The Lebanese national was allegedly responsible for smuggling the suicide bombers from Syria into Lebanon.
The ISF’s Information Branch had Saturday announced that it had uncovered the identity of the suicide bombers and arrested another network linked to the attacks. It released photos of the attackers and called on anyone who knew them to come forward and give details.
Machnouk applauded police intelligence for uncovering the network in less than 48 hours, saying that the security agencies will continue to work and crack down on such criminal activity despite the “fundamental ideological threats.”
“We will apprehend terrorists wherever they are and wherever they come from, and the Lebanese have proved that there is no safe place for them in the country,” he added.
Machnouk called on politicians to come together and look for solutions to the political crisis in Lebanon as the country wasn't a priority in the international community, warning of more terrorist attacks.
“Syria and Yemen are the world’s priority at the moment, meaning we should rely on ourselves in ending the political deadlock and not on others... The Burj al-Barajneh attacks definitely won’t be the last.”