World News

Lebanon arrests Islamists plotting attacks

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Lebanese army said on Tuesday it had uncovered a militant Islamist network that had been plotting to carry out attacks against U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon and the army itself.

The army, in a statement, said it had detained the cell’s 10 members. A security source said the men belonged to the al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group which fought a 15-week battle with the army in 2007.

The network, made up of members of different Arab origins and most of whom came from outside Lebanon, also planned to help “wanted terrorists” get out of the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp where many of them are holed up.

The security source told Reuters the ringleader of the arrested group, a Syrian national, had been found with six forged passports.

“He travelled to six Arab countries in 15 days. His group was planning several attacks against a wide range of targets,” the source said. Many of the men had taken up residence in Christian areas east of Beirut, he said.

The army statement said the network was also plotting attacks outside Lebanon.

At least 430 people were killed in the fighting between Fatah al-Islam and the army. Over half of those killed were fighters from the group and 170 were soldiers.

In December, the group said it feared its leader Shaker al-Absi had been killed in Syria and named another member to lead the group.

Last year, Syrian state television showed 12 alleged members of the group confessing that they had helped plan a suicide car bombing in Damascus that killed 17 people in September 2008.