Lebanon steps up terror crackdown after Beirut bombing

Lebanon steps up terror crackdown after Beirut bombing
Lebanese authorities have made more arrests and seized additional quantities of explosives in the wake of last week's terror attacks in Beirut, but have cancelled Independence Day celebrations.
4 min read
19 November, 2015

Lebanon has intensified its clampdown on terror cells in the wake of last week's deadly suicide blasts in Beirut's southern suburbs.

The boming killed and injured scores of people in an area where Hizballah is influential.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

     More than 300 kilograms of explosive materials to make suicide belts have been seized

According to Lebanon's English-language The Daily Star, more than 300 kilograms of explosive materials to make suicide belts have been seized and five more people have been arrested in connection with the bombing.

One of the men arrested by the Internal Security Forces' [ISF] Information Branch was linked to the terrorist network accused of involvement in the attack, according to an ISF statement.

The statement also said the ISF's Information Branch seized 150 kilograms of explosive materials used to make suicide belts on Wednesday.

In another statement, the ISF said the Information Branch had arrested four Lebanese nationals on Tuesday during a series of raids in the city of northern city of Tripoli, suspected of being involved in the blasts.

The arrests over the two days are part of security forces' efforts to crush terror networks in the wake of the Beirut attack.

The latest arrests bring the total number of suspects in custody to 16.

Meanwhile, Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr, charged nine people on Wednesday for belonging to the Islamic State group and carrying out terrorist attacks, including a recent bombing in the northeastern border town of Arsal.

Another three Lebanese and four Syrian nationals were also charged with planning to create an Islamic emirate in north Lebanon.

A 15-year-old boy was also arrested last week and is being held for alleged ties to a "terror" suspect, the Lebanese Army said in a statement Thursday.

Hizballah kills, captures militants

Meanwhile, Hizballah has reportedly killed two militants and taken several others hostage after ambushing their post on Lebanon's northeastern border, Hizballah-affiliated Al-Manar TV said Thursday.

The newsflash said the captured militants "admitted" two of their comrades had been killed and five others wounded in the attack.

The report did not identify which group the militants belonged to, but al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, is known to have a strong presence in the area.

The news comes five days after the Nusra Front said it had captured three Hizballah fighters and killed and wounded several others in northern Syria.

US Congress honours Lebanon victims

     Three Lebanese Americans - Leila Taleb, Hussein Mostapha and Leila Mazloum - were killed in the 12 November blasts in south Beirut

The United States' House of Representatives in Washington observed a moment of silence in remembrance for the victims of the deadly terror attack that rocked Beirut last week and in solidarity with Lebanon.

Representative Darrell Issa took to the floor of the legislature on Wednesday to request the remembrance, which was introduced as a resolution by Richard Hanna, a fellow lawmaker of Lebanese descent.

"Over 400 murders have been claimed by IS in the period of less than two weeks," Issa - a Republican from California - said in reference to not only the Beirut bombings, but also the deadly attacks in Paris as well as the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai.

Three Lebanese Americans - Leila Taleb, Hussein Mostapha and Leila Mazloum - were killed in the 12 November blasts in south Beirut that left over 45 people dead.

Independence Day celebrations 'cancelled'

Sources close to Prime Minister Tammam Salam said the government has decided to cancel celebrations for Lebanon's Independence Day on 22 November for the second year running.

The sources told al-Araby al-Jadeed Salam would only issue a statement for the occasion, citing the presidential vacuum as the cause of the decision.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since the term of former President Michel Sleiman ended in May 2014.

On Thursday, Salam said IS had failed to incite sectarian tensions in Lebanon following last week's double suicide attack, and praised citizens for their solidarity in the wake of the bombings.

"[To] the criminal hand that attacked a Lebanese neighbourhood and killed dozens [of people]..., we tell those who tried to incite sedition that they failed," Salam said during a banking conference in Beirut.

Salam underlined that "Beirut is still the same; it's still the city of peace and the window of the orient to the world. It's a place for convergence, interaction and openness".