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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's army said on Friday it had arrested Islamist militants who were planning attacks in the country after foreign embassies warned their citizens to avoid public places.

Army intelligence "carried out several raids arresting 19 people linked to a cell" belonging to Islamic State, the army said in a statement. Security forces were taking extra precautions, it added.

The cell which had "planned and prepared to carry out terrorist action" was led by Egyptian Fadi Ibrahim Ahmed, who was based in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, the army said.

Lebanon's Interior Ministry said earlier it was looking into warnings issued by foreign embassies over potential attacks in the country, but that there was no need to panic.

"These warnings are based on information from a foreign intelligence agency," the ministry said.

"Lebanese security services are following up to check its authenticity and accuracy ... There is no cause for fear or exaggeration."

The French Embassy in Beirut urged French citizens in Lebanon on Friday to be vigilant over the next 48 hours, citing an "elevated risk of attack targeting public places".

The U.S. Embassy said earlier in the week it had barred staff from visiting the Casino du Liban in Jounieh, north of Beirut. Canada also warned its citizens on Thursday to avoid that area.

(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones)

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