Lebanese authorities say they foiled 3 militant attacks

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese authorities have foiled attempts by members of the Islamic State group to carry out three attacks near the capital Beirut that reportedly resulted in a large number of civilian casualties, the interior minister said Wednesday.

Bassam Mawlawi said the would-be attackers, two of whom were arrested earlier this month, are all Palestinians who had recruited young men to carry out suicide attacks with explosive belts in the predominantly Shia southern suburbs of Beirut – a stronghold of the Hezbollah militant. group.

In the past, IS has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks that have killed and injured dozens of people in Lebanon. Such violence has diminished in recent years since the extremist group lost territories it controlled along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

There have been recent concerns that Lebanon’s severe economic crisis is pushing young men, especially in the impoverished north, to join IS. Dozens of young Lebanese men recently disappeared in northern Lebanon and later ended up in Iraq, where they joined IS. Several Lebanese were among the suspected militants killed by Iraqi security forces in recent weeks.

Mawlawi said the attackers planned 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 the commander of the Lebanese police, Major General 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 having the central bank governor questioned, accused of corruption. Osman should not show up for questioning.

“This is a message to reassure the Lebanese that the security forces are always on alert to protect them,” Mawlawi told reporters.

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