December 10, 2018 / 2:02 PM / a month ago

Lebanon says it foiled plots to stage attacks in May

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk talks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon foiled a plot by militants based in Syria to carry out two attacks this year against places of worship and Lebanese army positions, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk said on Monday.

The attacks were planned from Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province and were timed to coincide with Lebanon’s general election that took place in May, he said in a televised news conference.

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces monitored the plot and thwarted it, he said. The country remains safe for both residents and visitors, he added.

Lebanese authorities say they have disrupted or foiled numerous attacks in recent years, including some linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria. From 2013-2016 jihadist militants struck Lebanon repeatedly with bomb attacks

Idlib province is part of the last remaining stronghold in Syria outside government control and much of it is held by jihadist rebel groups including the country’s former al Qaeda affiliate.

Lebanon shares power among its religious sects and has maintained a “dissociation” policy of staying out of regional conflicts.

However, Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah has played a key military role in Syria supporting President Bashar al-Assad against mostly Sunni rebels seeking to oust him.

Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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