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LEBANON: Ad agency served as cover for terror plot, reports say

July 22, 2009 |  7:00 am

Lebanon-shaker

Ten men allegedly linked to Al Qaeda have been arrested and accused of using a billboard advertising agency as cover to spy on United Nations peacekeeping troops and the Lebanese army in preparation for an attack, Lebanese media reported today.

A statement released Tuesday by the Lebanese army said the men came from a number of Arab countries, while an unnamed security source told Reuters that the ringleader was a Syrian national who was discovered with six fake passports.

The men are also accused of providing assistance in the form of fake documents and transportation to members of Fatah al Islam, the Islamist insurgent group that battled the Lebanese army in and around the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp for three months in 2007, resulting in casualties on both sides and the death and displacement of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

The announcement of the arrests comes against a backdrop of growing tension between the international troops and the residents of southern border villages where those troops operate.

On Saturday, people from the village of Kherbet Selem hurled rocks at a French contingent as it attempted to search a house near the site of a mysterious explosion last week. Earlier this month, locals living near disputed Baathail Lake cut through barbed wire laid by the Israeli Defense Forces and surrounded an Israeli observation post in Lebanese and Hezbollah flags.

The Lebanese daily As-Safir has since reported that U.N. troops admitted to acting beyond their jurisdiction in Kherbet Selem by attempting to investigate alone without coordinating with the Lebanese army.

Hezbollah official Sheikh Nabil Qawouk told the newspaper An-Nahar today that the U.N. force "has crossed [the boundaries of] its responsibilities in Kherbet Selem” but he added that “the resistance [Hezbollah] is keeping the enemy at bay, not international resolutions.”

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Shaker Abbsi, leader of Fatah al Islam, speaking during a 2007 news conference. Credit: Nicola Toahmeh / AFP/Getty Images

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