France said Tuesday one of its nationals had been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of planning an attack under what a local newspaper claimed was the influence of the ISIS jihadist group sweeping through Iraq.
Lebanese security forces announced Friday they had detained 17 people in a hotel in Beirut following a tip-off that attacks by a “terrorist group” were being planned in the capital and other parts of the country.
A judicial source told AFP Monday that all had been released except a Frenchman originally from the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean.
French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal confirmed Tuesday that “a French national was arrested in Beirut.”
According to the Al-Akhbar daily newspaper, the suspect was part of a group of four would-be suicide bombers who had come to Lebanon.
The daily said he had admitted coming to the country with a view of committing a suicide attack under the influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which controls vast swathes of northern Syria, has overran major areas of five provinces in Iraq and is currently pressing onto Baghdad.
It said that another of the four may have been behind a suicide attack that actually took place in east Lebanon on Friday, killing one person and wounding at least 30 others. Sunni Islamist groups have claimed responsibility for a string of bombing attacks targeting strongholds of Shia Islamist Hezbollah in Lebanon, in response to the Iranian-backed group’s support for the Assad regime in Syria.
Most of the attacks have been carried out by groups linked to Al Qaeda, but ISIS – which split from Al Qaeda – has in recent months escalated its efforts to strike Hezbollah targets in Lebanon as well.
The French government is deeply concerned about the radicalization of its nationals after several citizens have gone to fight with jihadists in Syria, where ISIS is very powerful.
It unveiled an anti-terrorism plan in April to prevent radicalization, thwart online recruitment and make it more difficult for aspiring jihadists to leave the country.
Since then, authorities have arrested French Islamist Medhi Nemmouche, who is suspected of carrying out the Brussels Jewish Museum killings last month after spending a year fighting in Syria for ISIS.
German authorities recently arrested a French national suspected of recruiting young Muslims to join ISIS.