The Lebanese Army Army Intelligence Directorate arrested members of a sleeper-cell in north Lebanon that had been planning a shootout followed by a suicide attack during the holiday season, As-Safir newspaper reported in its final issue on Saturday
“The cell was preparing to stage terror acts inside Lebanon,” a well-informed source told As-Safir on condition of anonymity.
The Army Intelligence Directorate obtained, after thorough monitoring, some “accurate and credible” information that terror cells are taking action in the northern city of Tripoli according to instructions delivered to them from Islamist fugitive Shadi al-Mawalai, who is taking refuge in the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh, As Safir added.
“At 11:00 p.m. on Thursday, upper class Army Intelligence Units together with military units in Tripoli, were able to bust a 3-member terror cell. The militants were taken to the Defense Ministry in Yarzeh for interrogation. They made initial confessions that made the Directorate expand the circle of raids and tracking, and succeeded at busting a second cell composed of two terrorists bringing the total to five,” added the source.
“The detainees in custody were identified with their initials as Lebanese R.M., A.S., B.S., A.S and Palestinian W.A. They have all confessed to having links to al-Mawlawi who supplies them with information and instructions, while hiding in Ain el-Hilweh ,” said the source.
The cell’s plan was allegedly to target a gathering, first with rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades followed by heavy gunfire. A suicide bomber had planned to then detonate himself when bystanders and medics gathered to aid the wounded.
National News Agency said The army seized “a ready for use explosive belt provided with explosive substances capable of causing mass killing in case the terrorist tried to sneak through a crowd, in addition to guns with silencers, rocket-propelled grenades and large amounts of weapons and ammunition.”
“The cell’s initial confessions showed that it was planning to carry out the attack by first throwing rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades to be followed by heavy gunfire .. on a final stage when people gather to save the wounded, a suicide bomber would blow himself up among the crowd,” he added.
The report comes a day after state media said that the army had busted a three-member terror cell in Tripoli.
The suspects were arrested in Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood
A source told As-Safir that two other suspects involved in the holiday plot had been arrested earlier.
Mawlawi is believed to have been hiding in Ain al-Hilweh after fleeing the northern city of Tripoli when the army launched a security crackdown on Islamist militants in 2014.
Lebanon’s judiciary has charged him with operating a terrorist group with his partner-in-crime Osama Mansour, who was killed in 2015.
General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim had told LBCI earlier that security forces arrested a suspected terrorist in the southern city of Sidon preparing to carry out a suicide attack.
He warned that security risks persist in Lebanon as “we don’t live in an isolated island, but we’re part of this region.”
Lebanon’s General Security Saturday also announced the arrest of another would-be suicide bomber.
A statement issued by the agency said that Syrian Kh.M. was detained on charges of belonging to an extremist group.
During questioning, he allegedly admitted to being afiliated with a militant group – whose name was not revealed – recruiting fighters and coordinating their transfer to Syria to join the ranks of the group. He also admitted to preparing for suicide attack at the behest of Lebanese extremists identified as Aa.H., known as Abu Basir, and Abu Hajar.