Lebanon arrests Syrian IS suspect accused of planning attacks
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Lebanon arrests Syrian IS suspect accused of planning attacks

Security service says 20-year-old was spreading jihadist propaganda and plotting to bomb local Christian, Shiite sites

Illustrative: Lebanese security forces stand guard during a raid in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Illustrative: Lebanese security forces stand guard during a raid in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BEIRUT — Lebanon said Monday it had arrested a Syrian suspected of links to the Islamic State group who was plotting attacks on Christian and Shiite sites in the south of the country.

The Internal Security Forces (ISF) said they “tracked down and identified a man in southern Lebanon who actively publishes IS propaganda on social media networks and recruits new members” for the jihadist group.

The suspect, a 20-year-old Syrian national from the south Lebanon village of Yater, was in contact with people abroad who helped him set up social networking sites to disseminate IS propaganda, it said in a statement.

He also used the sites to discuss plans to carry out IS attacks on churches — inspired by the deadly Easter bombings in Sri Lanka — and Shiite religious centers, it added.

According to the ISF, the suspect had shared an IS video published in April purporting to show the group’s supremo Abu Bakr al Baghdadi hailing the Sri Lanka bombings.

Sri Lankan security personnel walk next to dead bodies on the floor amid blast debris at St. Anthony’s Shrine following an explosion in the church in Colombo on April 21, 2019. (ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)

He also downloaded a manual compiled by followers of the jihadist group instructing readers on how to build explosives, the statement added.

He is also believed to have spray painted IS slogans on walls in the Yater village.

The IS suspect is also accused of recruiting a second Syrian, 29, who was arrested by the ISF while he was still in “training,” the statement said.

Lebanon has been heavily impacted by the civil war in neighboring Syria since it erupted in March 2011.

Security forces have on several occasions arrested suspected IS members.

In this Tuesday, December 18, 2018, photo, Syrian refugee women hold their children as they sit in Ouzai refugee compound, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

They are usually tried by military courts, but their trials have dragged on due to the amount of cases.

Lebanon has been rocked by several suicide bombings since 2013, some of them claimed by IS.

The extremist group in August last year evacuated a Lebanese-Syrian border region under an unprecedented deal to end three years of jihadist presence there.

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