Lebanon Arrests 11 People Linked to Beirut Attacks

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Mideast Lebanon
Lebanese women weep at the scene of Thursday's twin suicide bombings in Beirut. Photo: Bilal Hussein/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

The day before terrorist attacks rocked Paris, ISIS claimed responsibility for suicide bombings that killed more than 40 people and hurt more than 200 in a busy shopping center in a suburban neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon. Now Lebanese authorities say they have detained 11 people in connection with the bloodbath, at least seven of whom are from Syria. Two Lebanese nationals were also arrested, according to the AFP, including one person who helped smuggle the Syrians across the border and the other who was allegedly intended to be a suicide bomber. 

According to Lebanon’s interior minister — who called the speedy arrests “extraordinary” — the Syrian operatives were detained in a Palestinian refugee camp in the targeted suburb and an apartment where the attackers had apparently plotted and prepared for the assault. One of the Lebanese suspects was apprehended in Tripoli, where he apparently fled after his suicide belt failed to detonate.

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Lebanese municipality workers clear debris from the site of a twin bombing attack.Photo: JOSEPH EID

The attacks in Beirut took place in an area known for its ties to Hezbollah — the Shiite militia that is backing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria — and were the worst terrorist strike the city has seen in years. It was also the largest assault ISIS has ever been able to carry out in Lebanon, though the extremist group has been gaining ground in the country. Yet it appears as though ISIS had laid out an even deadlier attack; Lebanese officials say the original plot targeted a hospital and enlisted five suicide bombers to carry out the mission. Tight security around the hospital partially foiled the attackers’ plan — only two suicide bombers detonated their vests. One bomb did go off near a hospital, but it was not a direct hit. The other exploded near a bakery. Right after the attacks, Lebanese police also found one bomber whose vest had also failed.

Lebanon is recovering from and mourning the attack. But along with the somber mood, there is also a sense of disappointment that the rest of the world failed to show solidarity with Lebanon in the same way it did with Paris, France. According to the Times, some in Beirut feel slighted, fueled by a sense that “Arab lives matter less” and the perception that the whole of the Middle East is awash in unrest. As one blogger put it, the death of people in Beirut “was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

Facebook has also gotten flak for activating its “Safety Check” feature in Paris, but not Lebanon. The social-media site had launched the tool after the devastating earthquakes in Nepal this spring, and, until Paris, had deployed it only in the wake of natural disasters. Mark Zuckerberg responded on Facebook to the criticism, saying the company “just changed” from using the feature in natural disasters only, and they will “now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well.”