Security

Lebanese army clamps down on terror cells in Arsal

By Tamer Abu Zeid in Beirut

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The Lebanese army conducted a raid in Arsal on July 11th that killed terrorist mastermind Yasser al-Ghawi. [Photo courtesy of the Lebanese army's Guidance Directorate]

The Lebanese army on Tuesday (July 11th) carried out a pre-emptive operation in Arsal days after security raids in two refugee camps in the northern border town led to the arrest of 100 "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements.

Syrian national Yasser al-Ghawi was killed along with Atef al-Jaroudi after resisting arrest during a raid in Arsal, the army said in a statement.

Three other terrorists were arrested, the army said, noting that the terror cell was planning attacks. Seven explosive devices, an explosive belt and 50 kilogrammes of explosives in addition to a number of grenades were seized.

Al-Ghawi was the mastermind behind a bombing attack in Ras Baalbek on May 22nd.

Three other wanted men -- Lebanese arms dealer Khaled Abu Omar Ezzedin and two Syrians related to ISIS leader Ghayath Juma who was killed in 2015 -- were also arrested in the operation.

"The operation included a reconnaissance aircraft that provided aerial monitoring which videotaped the raid," a military source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Al-Mashareq.

"Aerial footage showed that as the army force raided the flat of Yasser al-Ghawi, a native of the Syrian town of Qara, in Arsal, he and his associate tried to escape," the source said.

The Lebanese army clashed with them, killing al-Ghawi and al-Jaroudi, a native of the Syrian village of al-Jarajir, who was also affiliated with ISIS, the source said.

'Unconditional' support for the army

The new operation in Arsal came less than 24 hours after Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri met with army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun and Defence Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf to discuss security threats facing the country.

Al-Hariri lauded "the army’s achievement in preventing the spread of terrorism", and stressed that the government's political support for the military is "unconditional".

Al-Hariri's position in support of the army "must be followed by all political parties, especially as the army is offering sacrifices, martyrs and wounded soldiers in its pre-emptive operations", MP Amal Abu Zaid told Al-Mashareq.

The raids in Arsal and at the refugee camps reveal the terrorists' plots to use these camps as a launchpad for their attacks against Lebanon, he said.

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