Lebanon army arrests five suspected of plotting attacks

This content was published on June 25, 2014 - 14:03

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Lebanese army intelligence unit has arrested five men suspected of planning to assassinate senior security officials in the north of the country, the army said on Wednesday, after two deadly bombings struck Lebanon in three days.

It said the five men were part of a "terrorist cell" in Qalamoun, near the Mediterranean city of Tripoli. The army was still trying to track down the remaining cell members, it said.

Lebanon has suffered a wave of sectarian violence linked to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, which are fighting Sunni Muslim insurgencies and have lost control of large tracts of land to a powerful jihadi militant group straddling their joint border.

A suicide bomber blew up his car near an army checkpoint in Beirut on Monday night, killing himself and a security officer, three days after the head of Lebanon's General Security service narrowly escaped a suicide bombing near the Syrian border.

A spokesman for the al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades said in a statement they were a warning to Lebanon's Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, which is fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"We will not let you live in safety until security returns to the people of Syria and Lebanon," he said.

Shortly before Friday's bombing, Lebanese security forces detained 17 people at a Beirut hotel on suspicion of planning attacks in the country.

France's foreign ministry confirmed this week that one of the men had French nationality. Lebanese security sources said a French man of Comorian origin was the only one of the original 17 who was still in detention after the others were released.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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