Beirut – Hotel raids launched by Lebanon’s security forces have continued in Beirut’s Raouche, a day after a suicide bomber rattled the tourist neighbourhood in the third attack in six days to target the capital.
Twelve people were wounded after Saudi national Abdul-Rahman al-Thawani detonated his explosive belt to avoid being caught during a security raid on Wednesday at the Duroy Hotel in Beirut’s Raouche, where he and his alleged accomplice Abdul-Rahman al-Shnifi, also Saudi, occupied a room on the fourth floor.
Shnifi suffered burns but survived and later allegedly confessed to interrogators that he and Thawani were plotting a double-suicide mission outside the As-Saha Restaurant, a popular Hezbollah-affiliated eatery in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
The men are believed to be affiliated with an al-Qaeda splinter group.
The suicide bombing was the third such attack in six days.
On midnight on Tuesday, an unidentified man driving a white 1960s Mercedes blew himself up near a Lebanese Army checkpoint in Beirut’s Tayyouneh, one of the main entrances to the southern suburbs.
The impact killed General Security Sergeant Abdul-Karim Hodroj and wounded 25, most of whom were patrons at a nearby cafe who had gathered to watch a World Cup match.
On Friday, another bomber detonated his vehicle at the Dahr al-Baidar checkpoint on the Beirut-Damascus highway, killing ISF officer Mahmoud Jamaleddine and wounding 33 others.
General Security chief Major-General Abbas Ibrahim said he narrowly escaped the attack, as his convoy was a mere 200 metres from the blast.
Counter-terrorism efforts were lauded by state officials as all three attacks did not reach their intended targets in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Security expert Mario Abou Zeid of the Carnegie Middle East Centre credits unprecedented cooperation between intelligence units of General Security, the Internal Security Forces and the army for thwarting the plots.
The suicide bombings came as police began cracking down on suspected “terrorist cells” across the country on Friday.
Raids continued throughout the week, with several arrests made in north Lebanon and Beirut.
Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr charged 15 people for belonging to the al-Qaeda linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and planning to assassinate security officers.
They were also charged with taking part in training activities in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh and in Syria, where they allegedly received instruction on how to prepare explosives.
Also charged was Toufic Taha, believed to be the head of the Lebanese branch of al-Qaeda.