(AP) Terror suspects arrested for allegedly planning to bomb the Italian Embassy and assassinate Western embassy staff in Beirut were affiliated with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida, Lebanese security officials said Wednesday.
At a news conference, Interior Minister Elias Murr identified the leaders of the plot as Ahmed Salim Mikati and Ismail Mohammed al-Khatib, both Lebanese, and said eight Lebanese and Palestinian accomplices were arrested.
Khatib “is an al-Qaida operative … his role was to recruit fundamentalist youth to carry out operations against coalition forces in Iraq,” Murr said.
Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum, who also spoke at the press conference, said both men “had links to al-Qaida,” the militant Muslim network that has sworn enmity to the West.
The group planned simultaneous bombings of the Italian and Ukrainian embassies and a few Lebanese “security and judicial targets,” Murr said. The ministry had earlier said in a statement that the target was the Ukrainian consulate, which is in the same building as the embassy in a Beirut suburb.
Murr said the group was also planning to assassinate employees working in Western embassies in Lebanon.