Lebanese security forces have arrested nine people, most of them Syrian nationals, over their alleged involvement in last week’s twin bombings in Beirut that killed at least 44 people, the interior minister said.
“Until now the detained include seven Syrians and two Lebanese – one of them a [would-be] suicide bomber and the other a trafficker who smuggled them across the border from Syria,” Interior Minister Nuhad Mashnuq said at a televised press conference on Sunday.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for the attacks last Thursday, which hit a busy shopping street in Burj al-Barajneh.
“The whole suicide bombing network and its supporters were arrested in the 48 hours following the explosion,” Mashnuq said.
He said the Syrians were detained in a Palestinian refugee camp located in Burj al-Barajneh and a flat in the capital’s eastern district of Ashrafieh that had been used to prepare the explosive belts.
The initial plan was apparently to send five suicide bombers to a hospital in the neighbourhood, he said, but heavy security forced them to change the target to a densely populated area.
Beirut-based political analyst Ali Rizk told Al Jazeera that the bombings signal a shift in ISIL’s tactics.
In the past month, ISIL has claimed responsibility for downing a Russian plane and killing all 224 people on board, the Beirut bombings and the recent Paris attacks in which at least 129 people lost their lives.
“The group is transforming itself into a purely terror organisation in light of its losses on the ground in Iraq and Syria,” Rizk said.
“The Beirut bombing is also an indication that the idea of Islamic caliphate, as envisioned by ISIL, is facing major reality checks, and is failing apart,” he added, explaining that the attacks on foreign lands are because the group is failing to maintain power in its previous strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Ali Meqdad, a member of the Lebanese parliament with close ties to Hezbollah, told Al Jazeera that “ISIL is waging an open war against Muslim and European societies in the Middle East and Europe”.
“Those killed in the Beirut bombing, many of whom were children and the elderly, have paid an unnecessary price,” Meqdad said.
“ISIL is engaged in terrorism only to defame the good name of Islam and it is serving only those who wish to keep Islam stigmatised by the terrorism label.”
With reporting by Ali Younes: @Ali_reports