Lebanon officials have announced 11 arrests in Beirut over the weekend, all in connection with last Thursday’s terrorist attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 44 people, reported Yahoo! News. According to Lebanon Interior Minister Nuhad Mashnuq, the original target was a hospital and most of those detained are Syrian.
“The detained include seven Syrians and two Lebanese, one of them a (would-be) suicide bomber and the other a trafficker who smuggled them across the border from Syria.”
Jihadist group Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which instead hit a busy shopping district in the Burj al-Barajneh suburb known for its connections to the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, which also spoke out to condemn the attacks.
Mashnuq said the seven Syrians are being held in a Palestinian refugee camp in Burj al-Barajneh and in a flat in Beirut’s eastern district of Ashrafieh where the attackers had prepared the explosive belts, calling the arrests an “extraordinary achievement.”
“The whole suicide bombing network and its supporters were arrested in the 48 hours following the explosion.”
A Lebanese would-be attacker was arrested by security forces in the northern port city of Tripoli, when his suicide belt failed to detonate. The group originally planned to send five suicide bombers into a hospital, but the target was changed due to heavy security and the densely populated shopping area in the capital was selected instead. One of the men arrested reportedly admitted to transporting a suicide bomber from Syria to Lebanon and to giving him explosives while another said he had transferred money that was used to plan the bombings.
Mashnuq also said he expects more attacks to come.
“When they send five suicide attackers to one place, it means… it won’t be the last.”
Over the last four days, the Islamic State has taken the lives of nearly 200 people in Beirut and Paris, France, while injuring hundreds more. According to the International Business Times, the attacks, followed by arrests in Beirut, represent the largest to date, outside of the group’s designated jurisdiction in parts of Iraq and Syria, indicating that Islamic State sleeper cells have been activated. Harleen Gambhir, who serves as an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, says the recent attacks represent the most dangerous course of action the Islamic State could take due to its affect on world order.
“The change is that ISIS is now emphasizing disruptive terror attacks in the wider world far more than it was before. This is an operational shift that will have strategic implications.”
The New York Times reported that the tragedy in Beirut was largely overlooked compared to the Paris attacks, despite the fact that more than 40 people were killed at random – much like those in Paris – while simply going about their everyday evening business.
“For some in Beirut, solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities – Paris – received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks.”
The crime scenes in south Beirut and central Paris were marked by a sense of shock and sadness all weekend, with cafes and markets staying much quieter than usual. Still, monuments around the world lit up to display the colors of the French flag, but not the Lebanese flag, while Facebook offered users a one-click option to put a blue, white and red filter over their profile pictures in support of the French, but did not offer the same service for the colors of the Lebanese flag. In addition, the social media platform offered the Safety Check service for people in Paris, but they had not activated it just one day before when Beirut was bombed.
[Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images]