Officials: Security Agencies Up Intelligence to Thwart Arsal-Like Attacks

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The Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces intelligence branches have improved their work, leading to the arrest of dozens of militants, military officials said.

The officials, who were not identified, told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, that the army and security forces have taken stronger measures to thwart attacks similar to the incursion that took place in the northeastern town of Arsal.

The agencies are now focusing on intelligence work, which led to the arrest of a large number of Islamic State militants in several Lebanese regions.

On August 2, IS and al-Nusra Front fighters entered Arsal and engaged in battles with the Lebanese army that left scores dead and wounded.

The jihadists withdrew to Syrian territories a few days later after a ceasefire was brokered by Muslim scholars. But the town’s seizure marked the first time that extremists from Syria carried out a large-scale incursion into Lebanon.

It also raised fears of a further spillover of the Syrian conflict across the porous border.

Following the clashes, Lebanese officials expressed concern that IS sleeper cells in Syrian refugee encampments would carry out similar attacks, the officials told Asharq al-Awsat.

But they said that the strong security measures aimed at thwarting such assaults are not new and were not the result of the fighting in Arsal.

“Terrorism did not start in Arsal and would not end there,” the officials said. “It did not reach Lebanon recently.”

Last year, the country witnessed several explosions that targeted mainly Shiite areas that are sympathetic with Hizbullah, which has sent its fighters to Syria to help President Bashar Assad’s troops crush the mostly Sunni rebellion against him.

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