Lebanon thwarted extremists’ plans to attack places of worship and government buildings over the holidays after gaining rare access to an ISIS operative, the interior minister said Friday.
Nuhad Mashnuq said at a press conference that an elite unit in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) had arrested an Iraqi ISIS commander in Beirut last June.
The commander, known as Abu Jaafar al-Iraqi, had been tasked by the ISIS leadership to establish an ISIS network in Lebanon, according to information presented at the briefing.
This network would not only carry out attacks in Lebanon, but could have potentially hosted top ISIS officials fleeing Iraq and Syria.
Full details of the operation and the current whereabouts of Abu Jaafar were not revealed.
But Mashnuq said that for five months after the Iraqi commander’s arrest the ISF kept tabs on him through a mysterious “volunteer,” who had gained his trust and rented a home for him that was bugged by Lebanese authorities.
“This is one of those rare operations where you have someone this important in the terrorist organization, and you’re able to use him for five months to find out about the plans supposed to happen during the holidays, against places of worship and government buildings,” Mashnuq told reporters.
“The nature of this operation, as we explained, is unprecedented in the Arab world,” he claimed.