BEIRUT - Lebanese security forces arrested an influential Syrian-born Islamist cleric on Sunday who went into hiding last month after a crackdown in the northern city of Tripoli to end sectarian violence fuelled by civil war in neighboring Syria.

Omar Bakri, who praised al Qaeda in recent speeches, founded outlawed British Islamist group Al Muhajiroun and was banished from Britain to Lebanon in 2005.

He sought refuge in the mainly Sunni city of Tripoli where he was popular among young hardline Sunni Muslims.

"In the early hours of the morning we have arrested Omar Bakri from where he was hiding in Aley," Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said at a conference.

"This person has contributed in every aspect in supporting terrorism."

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger