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Lebanese army foils plan by Syrian armed rebels to kidnap Lebanese soldiers

HERMEL, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army deployed heavily Saturday along the Lebanese-Syrian border in the northern Bekaa valley region, hours after a report emerged that a major terrorist attack was thwarted.

A security source told The Daily Star that the Army deployed at 100 new points in the villages located at the foot of the anti-Lebanon mountain chain.

The Army deployed in the Baalbek villages of Al-Qaa, Ras Baalbek, Fakiha, Meqraq, Labweh, Swanieh, Nahleh, Younin, Maqneh, Bizalieh, Nabi Othman and Arsal in a bid to curb all illegal entry into Lebanese territories, namely of gunmen coming from Syria, the source explained.

The source said the decision of Hezbollah and the Syrian Army to tighten the noose on armed rebels that took refuge in mountainous areas between Lebanon and Israel has led Lebanese security agencies to take preemptive measures as they expect an influx of gunmen into Lebanese territories as a result of the crackdown carried out by Hezbollah and Syrian troops.

A plan earlier this week by Syrian armed rebels to kidnap Lebanese soldiers in a bid to swap them with Islamists held at the Roumieh prison was foiled, security sources told As-Safir newspaper in comments published Saturday.

The sources said that American security forces officially informed the Lebanese security apparatus that around 2000 armed rebels had plans to launch a massive ground operation during “Laylat al-Qadr” (Night of Destiny) on Lebanese border villages, and kidnap dozens of men to exchange them with Islamist prisoners held at the Roumieh prison.

The attackers were also planning a massacre in the villages – the majority of which are Shiite – with the aim of drawing retaliation and plunging the northern Bekaa Valley area into sectarian fighting.

“The Bekaa Valley and Lebanon have escaped a dangerous criminal plan that would have plunged Lebanon into sectarian chaos,” one source told As-Safir.

According to As-Safir, the “Americans” had asked the Lebanese Army and General Security to take preemptive measures in light of information made available that extremist groups were planning to abduct Lebanese soldiers and officers in order to use them as an exchange for Roumieh prisoners from the Nusra Front, the Andullah Azzam Brigades and Al-Qaeda.

The sources said Takfiri groups have set up a plan to liberate Islamist prisoners in Roumieh. These groups, the security sources said, were mulling a mass prison break that would be coupled with a large suicide bombing or a hostage situation.

The sources added that Hezbollah and the Syrian Army were able to take over “a strategic location” in the Syrian border area of Qalamoun. The location was considered a main gathering point for the armed groups that planned to carry the “Laylat al-Qadr” operation, they added.

Laylat al-Qadr is the anniversary of two key dates in Islam that occurred during the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad during Laylat al-Qadr.

Since July 12, Hezbollah fighters, backed by Syrian aerial and ground bombardment targeting rebel hideouts in the mountainous outskirts of Arsal, have engaged in fierce fighting with members of the Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army as part of the resistance party’s attempts to root out rebel groups from border areas with Lebanon.

Source: The Daily Star Lebanon