Lebanon has thwarted a plan by the Islamic State group to carry out three suicide bombings targeting Shiite religious compounds in Beirut’s southern suburbs, the interior ministry said Wednesday.
Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) said the instructions for the bomb plot came from an IS operative based in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, who is in touch with fellow Sunni extremists in Syria.
On February 7, the agent was instructed to prepare attacks on a Shiite religious compound in the Al-Laylaki neighbourhood, the Imam al-Kazem compound in Haret Hreik and the Al-Nasser religious centre in Beirut’s Ouzai suburb, the ISF said.
He was given three explosive vests and other weapons to conduct the attacks on February 16, the ISF added.
Security forces have since identified four suspected militants residing in the Ain al-Hilweh camp who are believed to have been involved in the bomb plot.
The camp outside the main southern city of Sidon is the largest Palestinian settlement in Lebanon.
Beirut’s southern suburbs, a stronghold of Shiite militant group Hezbollah, saw a wave of bombings between 2013 and 2015 carried out by Sunni extremists in retaliation for Hezbollah’s intervention in the civil war in neighbouring Syria on the side of the Damascus government.
In 2015, twin suicide bombings claimed by IS killed more than 40 people in the area.
The latest IS plot came after the group’s leader Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi was killed in a US raid on his home in rebel-held northwestern Syria earlier this month.
IS is believed to be exploiting an unprecedented financial crisis in Lebanon to lure recruits with the promise of hefty salaries.