BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon has thwarted a planned Islamic State cell by detaining a militant and turning him into an informant, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said on Friday.
The Iraqi man, identified only by the initials A.Z., had been sent by Islamic State to Lebanon to form a new cell to carry out attacks, Machnouk said.
The Intelligence Division of Lebanon’s Internal Security Force said in a statement at Machnouk’s news conference that security services had tracked A.Z.’s activities in Iraq and after he arrived in Lebanon in June.
When it became clear he was planning to return to Iraq, he was arrested and turned into an informant.
For five months A.Z. carried on communicating with Islamic State abroad and working on the cell - all the while feeding information back to Lebanese security forces.
Islamic State asked him “to exert maximum effort to carry out terror attacks in Lebanon especially during the holiday season and end of year celebrations”, the information division said.
The operation was ended after intelligence showed Islamic State command abroad had become suspicious of A.Z. and the lack of attacks, it said.
A number of arrests were made as a result of the operation, Machnouk said.
Lebanese authorities say they have foiled a number of Islamic State attacks and networks in the country since a 2015 bomb in a southern suburb of the capital killed at least 43.
In August, Islamic State and other militants were cleared from the Lebanon-Syria border area after separate offensives by the Lebanese army and Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militia.
Reporting by Dahlia Nehmeh and Lisa Barrington; editing by Andrew Roche