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Internal Security Forces chief Major General Ashraf Rifi told al-Joumhouria daily in a report published on Saturday that he has “no information” about the presence of al-Qaeda in Lebanon, an issue that has stirred controversy in the past week.

“The Intelligence Branch has no info about the infiltration of al-Qaeda to Lebanon,” Rifif stressed, saying its role is to provide the Army Intelligence with all the information it needs.

Rifi said the ISF helps the Lebanese Army in controlling the border and combatting arms smuggling.

Last week, Lebanon’s Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn warned of the presence of Al-Qaeda cells in Arsal, near the Syrian border.

Ghosn who is reportedly closely associated with the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah and MP Michel Aoun informed the Lebanese cabinet last Thursday that al-Qaeda members had infiltrated the Bekaa town of Arsal.

President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has blamed Friday’s twin suicide bombing on “terrorist organizations,” including Al-Qaeda, and quoted Lebanese officials as warning Syria that Al-Qaeda members infiltrated into Syria from the town of Arsal.

Earlier today Interior Minister Marwan Charbel also reiterated that “there is no organization called Al-Qaeda in Lebanon.” However, he added that there “are people who have been sympathizing with the organization since 2003 following the US occupation of Iraq and after the establishment of fundamentalist movements in Afghanistan and Yemen where Al-Qaeda is present.”

“Al-Qaeda is not present in Lebanon; otherwise the security forces would have uncovered its members ,” Charbel told MTV.

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