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Arms seized with pro-Syria group

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- As the mounting political crisis tightened the noose on Lebanon, security forces have seized large quantities of arms possessed by a pro-Syrian party.

Security forces Thursday seized the arms, including explosives, detonation devices, clock timers and rifles, in the province of Koura in north Lebanon, a statement by the Internal Security Forces said.

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The statement said several people were arrested during raids on the locations of the suspected arms caches, but did not identify the quantity of arms, the number of detainees or to which political faction they belonged.

But security forces, speaking to United Press International on condition of anonymity, said more than 100 kilograms of explosives of various types were seized and at least six people arrested. They said all the suspects belonged to the Nationalist Socialist Syrian Party.

The sources said police encircled the NSSP's headquarters in Beirut following the seizure in north Lebanon, as well as the office of former minister and senior NSSP official Asaad Hardane, known for his close ties to Damascus.

Other security sources reported that two truck-loads of arms were removed from several storages in Koura and that two stolen cars, believed to be destined to be rigged, were also confiscated.

The sources said NSSP members evacuated a side office in Beirut before police arrived on the scene and took control of the place.

Assassinations of anti-Syria politicians have rocked Lebanon since the Feb. 14, 2005, slaying of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The latest casualty of political crimes was Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel who was killed on Nov. 21.

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