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boutros harbTelecommunications Minister Boutros Harb vowed Wednesday to hunt down illegal internet providers, saying they posed a danger to Lebanon’s national security.

The owners of these unauthorized internet stations were buying bandwidth from Turkey and Cyprus and selling it to Lebanese subscribers at prices below official rates, he said.

“We will not allow the violation of the country’s sovereignty and national security,” Harb said in a televised news conference.

“This is an attack on the Lebanese people’s privacy, and we will not allow these dangerous crimes to pass without punishment.”

He also linked the networks to Israel citing a piece of equipment that was spotted in Barouk 7 years ago without explaining the link with the new networks

His comments came one day after two Lebanese nationals were indicted for installing unauthorized internet networks east of Beirut.

Harb said the ministry’s findings have been referred to judiciary and security authorities.

During the news conference, Harb displayed pictures of the large communication devices and towers used in unauthorized internet networks, which he said were installed in several mountainous and isolated areas across Lebanon. He said he was confused how such large equipment was brought into the country without anyone sounding an alarm.

These illegal communication setups have a bandwidth of 40GB per second in WiFi network speed, which is equivalent to a third of the international capacity set by the Telecommunications Ministry.

Government departments were using the services of illegal internet providers as well, Harb added.

“Illegal internet providers are providing sensitive official departments with free internet services most of the time,” he said. “It’s a shame they didn’t know who they were dealing with.”

Harb dismissed accusations by reporters at the news conference that the high cost of official internet service created a market for illegal internet providers in the country.

Harb said he has contacted the Turkish and Cypriot embassies in the country, telling them to “stop aggressing Lebanon.”

Herb’s remarks come after Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah who heads up the parliamentary media committee stressed on Monday that the illegal internet telecom networks uncovered lately is a serious issue that must be controlled by the state, As Safir daily reported on Tuesday.

“Illegal internet networks are a dangerous issue that is growing even bigger. The State must put its hands on it because it has legal financial and security repercussions” Fadlallah told the daily.

But according to analysts Hezbollah owns the largest illegal telecom network in the country . In May 2008, Hezbollah occupied the western part of Beirut and tried to occupy Mt Lebanon when the cabinet of former PM Fouad Siniora decided to remove the party’s telecommunications network.

Marwan Hamadeh who was the Telecom Minister at the time revealed in leaked cables that Hezbollah with the help of the Iranians installed an illegal fiber optics telecom network throughout Lebanon.

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