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Former Lebanese minister arrested for planning attacks for Syria's Assad

Michel Samaha, a former Lebanese minister, reportedly confessed to helping plan attacks on Sunni targets in Lebanon. If true, it illustrates how far Syria's Assad regime can reach into Lebanon.

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Lebanese policemen are deployed at the entrance of a residential building where former Lebanese government minister Michel Samaha lives, in Beirut, August 9. Samaha, a former Lebanese government minister with close ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has reportedly confessed to helping plan a series of bomb attacks against Sunni targets in north Lebanon at the behest of the Syrian leadership.

Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

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Michel Samaha, a former Lebanese minister who is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has reportedly confessed to helping plan a series of bomb attacks against Sunni targets in north Lebanon at the behest of the Syrian leadership.

The discovery of the reported bomb plot will have significant political repercussions if confirmed and will harden fears in Lebanon that the embattled Assad regime is seeking to export its troubles to its tiny neighbor, which is split between supporters and opponents of the Syrian president.

Also, the detention in Lebanon of an influential pro-Syrian politician is highly unusual, suggesting that the Lebanese police had compelling evidence before detaining Mr. Samaha.

“No one would have dared to arrest Samaha, neither the security agencies nor the judiciary, if the [authorities] had no evidence proving Samaha’s involvement in the charges issued against him,” Khaled Daher, a Sunni parliamentarian from north Lebanon and outspoken critic of the Assad regime, told the Kuwaiti newspaper As-Seyassah in an interview published today.

Officers from the information branch of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces raided Samaha’s home in the village of Kinshara north of Beirut early yesterday, bundling the pajama-clad former minister into a car and seizing documents, CDs, and computers and reportedly $170,000 in cash. His bodyguard, secretary, and driver were also detained for questioning, although they were released later that day.

According to Lebanese media reports, the alleged bomb plot was discovered when a man identified only by his family name, Kfouri, became an informant for the police after Samaha allegedly attempted to recruit him for the operation. According to the reports, the most damning piece of evidence against Samaha is video footage shot in secret by Kfouri in which Samaha discusses the plot.

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