Lebanon rounds up al-Qaida operatives

Feb. 24, 2014 at 1:56 PM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Nearly two dozen militants were charged Monday for their role in bombings in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, a military judge said.

Saqr Saqr, Lebanon's top military judge, charged 21 suspected members of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and their leader, Naim Abbas, for their alleged role in a string of attacks in Beirut, the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon reported Monday.

The judge said the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and al-Nusra front, both of which have ties to al-Qaida, were suspected of "carrying out terrorist acts by smuggling explosive-rigged vehicles from Syria into Lebanon with the aim of killing citizens, destroying public and private properties and serving a blow to the state's authority and prestige."

Both groups said the attacks on Beirut were meant as a response to Hezbollah's role in Syria's civil war, the newspaper said. The Shiite movement, backed by Iran, admitted in 2012 to fighting along pro-government forces in Syria.

Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for last week's bombings near the Iranian Cultural Center in Beirut, in which five people were killed and 80 were wounded.

Saqr said the suspects could be put to death if found guilty of terrorism-related charges.

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