Lebanese authorities say they have foiled 3 militant attacks
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese authorities have thwarted attempts by members of the Islamic State group to carry out three attacks near the capital Beirut that would have inflicted a large number of civilian casualties, the interior minister said Wednesday.
Bassam Mawlawi said the would-be attackers, two of whom were detained earlier this month, are all Palestinians who had been recruiting young men to carry out suicide attacks with explosive belts in the predominantly Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut — a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group.
IS has in the past claimed responsibility for deadly attacks that killed and wounded scores of people in Lebanon. Such violence has dropped in recent years since the extremist group lost territories it controlled along the Lebanon-Syria border.
There has been concern recently that Lebanon’s severe economic crisis was driving young men, particularly in the impoverished north, to join IS. Dozens of young Lebanese men have disappeared in northern Lebanon recently and later turned up in Iraq, where they joined IS. Several Lebanese were among suspected militants killed by Iraqi security forces over the past weeks.
Mawlawi said the attackers were planning to carry out shootings followed by suicide attacks in order to inflict a large number of casualties in areas just south of Beirut, including Ouzai and Lailaki.
He praised Lebanon’s police commander, Maj. Gen. Imad Osman, saying he was a main force in thwarting the attacks.
The announcement came a week after an investigative judge sued Osman, accusing him of preventing security forces from bringing in for questioning the central bank governor who stands accused of corruption. Osman is not expected to show up for questioning.
“This is a message to reassure the Lebanese that security forces are always on alert to protect them,” Mawlawi told reporters.