Naharnet

Michel Samaha Arrested, 'Confesses to Plotting Bombings in North'

The Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch arrested former MP and cabinet minister Michel Samaha on Thursday morning "for security reasons," the acting general prosecutor said.

Samaha was arrested following raids on his houses in Beirut’s Ashrafiyeh district and the North Metn town of Jwar al-Khensahara.

Samaha's wife, Gladys, told LBCI TV network that the former minister was still in bed when the security forces dragged him out and forced him into one of four vehicles waiting outside his Jwar al-Khenshara house.

She said her husband was arrested for “political reasons” and urged the Lebanese camp that backs him “to move.”

The security forces seized two of his vehicles, a computer and several items, including CDs and videos, from both houses. They also took his driver Fares Barakat for questioning.

The National News Agency said his secretary and two of his bodyguards were also being interrogated.

The bodyguards, Fares Barakat and Ali Mallah, and the secretary Gladys Awada were later released on bail.

The reasons for Samaha's arrest were not clear, but MTV later reported that he confessed to planning "terrorist attacks" in Lebanon at Syrian orders.

LBCI later said that he confessed to planning terrorist attacks that would have been carried out during Ramadan iftars in northern Lebanon.

"Samaha confessed to smuggling explosives in his car from Syria to Lebanon," reported LBCI.

Samaha's driver also confessed to taking part in preparing terrorist operations that were going to be carried out in the North, the TV network added.

The arrest of Samaha's driver, Fares Barakat, led to the former minister's confession, according to LBCI.

Al-Jadeed television said Samaha's arrest was based on a videotape that revealed his involvement in planning attacks in the North.

And a security source told Future TV that Samaha was plotting bombings aimed at "stirring a Sunni-Alawite strife and a Sunni-Christian strife."

His seizure came upon instructions by acting General Prosecutor Samir Hammoud for “security reasons" which MTV said were linked to an assassination attempt against al-Mustaqbal bloc’s Akkar MP Khaled al-Daher to create civil strife.

Al-Daher later told MTV that he was surprised by the report. “I don’t have any information about this case,” the lawmaker said.

Security forces linked his arrest to the seizure of explosives for the purpose of carrying out bombings in several Lebanese areas. They told LBC that the explosives were not found at his houses but elsewhere.

Hammoud refused to divulge any information, telling LBC that the interrogation should be swift.

“The appropriate judicial measures will be taken after that by either issuing an arrest warrant or setting him free,” he said.

Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi later told NBN: "The manner in which Samaha was arrested is unacceptable at all and I will request the acting general prosecutor to investigate the matter."

Later on Thursday, Samaha's bodyguard Barakat told LBCI following his release that he "did not smuggle any arms in Samaha's car from Syria to Lebanon."

"I don't know why I was arrested or the charges against me and the minister and they only asked me questions related to the minister," he added.

"I did not meet minister Samaha during the interrogation and they are writing the investigation report the way they want and the minister is the last person who would think about such bombings," Barakat went on to say.

He also confirmed that Samaha visited Syria at the beginning of this week and that he accompanied him.

Samaha is known for his pro-Syrian regime views. He was among several pro-Syrian Lebanese officials who were sanctioned in 2007 by the United States for “contributing to political and economic instability in Lebanon.”


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