'Terror cell planned to attack UNIFIL'

Lebanese army nabs 10 Fatah al-Islam men, says group wanted to hit targets inside, outside Lebanon.

July 21, 2009 15:50
2 minute read.
UN UNIFIL observation post lebanon

UNIFIL 248 88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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The Lebanese army on Tuesday said it had uncovered a terror network that had been planning to carry out a series of attacks against its troops, as well as a UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. The group also reportedly planned to carry out attacks outside Lebanon. The army said in a statement that it was holding the ten-member cell, from the Fatah al-Islam organization associated with al-Qaida, which was engaged in a series of skirmishes with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in and around the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in 2007. According to the LAF, the group was comprised of members hailing from different parts of the Arab world, most of them non-Lebanese. The network was also planning to bail out men associated with the group that have been barricaded in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilwe, according to Lebanese sources. Reuters quoted a Lebanese security source as saying that six forged passports were found on the person of the group's leader, a Syrian national. "He traveled to six Arab countries in 15 days. His group was planning several attacks against a wide range of targets," Reuters quoted the source as saying. On Monday, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev charged that the UNIFIL troops who have been stationed in southern Lebanon and given a mandate to maintain peace in the region, have in fact done the exact opposite by assisting the small group of Hizbullah supporters in their illegal border crossing into Israel over the weekend. On Friday, 15 Lebanese civilians crossed illegally into Israel, shouting and waving Hizbullah flags. IDF troops spotted the group, but did not confront them as they were reportedly unarmed and returned to Lebanon minutes later, without incident. In a letter submitted by the ambassador to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the president of the United Nations Security Council, Shalev accused a contingent of Indian UNIFIL peacekeepers of having done nothing to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the border and even cooperating with the group. "[The demonstrators] stood opposite the UNIFIL force, [which did nothing,] and worse than that, according to statements made by the organizers of the demonstration, they even cooperated with them," the letter read. In her complaint, the Israeli ambassador lashed out at Hizbullah for its "grievous violations of Resolution 1701," which included both the border breach, as well as an attack by Lebanese villagers against UNIFIL troops on Saturday who were investigating an explosion last week in a suspected Hizbullah arms depot in southern Lebanon. Both incidents "demonstrate an escalation and a pattern of behavior in Lebanon, that must be confronted," Shalev wrote in her letter.

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