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Lebanon Blames Syria for Ain Alaq Bus Bombings

 Lebanon blamed Syria for the twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq north of Beirut last month, and all four Syrians in Lebanese custody have confessed carrying out the blasts that killed three people and wounded 23 others.

 Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa announced late Tuesday that four of the five Syrian suspects have been detained, including one of the two culprits in the Ain Alaq attack Feb. 13 on the eve of the second anniversary of the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri. He said the fifth suspect remain at large.

 Sabaa refused to disclose the names of the culprits, but stressed that they are all Syrian nationals operating under the banner of Fatah-Islam, a radical Palestinian group which is controlled by "the Syrian security (intelligence) system."

 But Fatah-Islam swiftly denied any involvement and accused the government of trying to pave the way for an offensive against the dozen or so camps in Lebanon, which house more than half of the country's nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Naharnet Exclusive: Police Bust Syria-Based Terrorist Network

 Lebanese police have busted a Syria-based terrorist network on charges of carrying out the twin-bus bombings north of Beirut last month and planning further attacks, Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa announced Tuesday.

 Sabaa said four of the five Syrian suspects have been detained, including one of the two culprits in the twin-bus bombings in the mountainous town of Ain Alaq northeast of Beirut, which resulted in killing three people and wounding more than 20.

 Sabaa refused to disclose the names of the culprits, but stressed that they are all Syrian nationals operating under the banner of Fatah-Islam group which is controlled by "the Syrian security (intelligence) system."

 Police chief Gen. Ashraf Rifi, talking to reporters during the joint news conference with Sabaa, said "modern technical equipment were used in the investigations that led to the arrests of the ring members."

 Rifi stressed that Fatah-Islam is "not affiliated with Islam at all. The banner was used for camouflage."

 Earlier reliable sources told Naharnet that the arrested suspects were provided with forged identity cards identifying them as Palestinians and Saudis in addition to Syrians.

 They said two remain at large and are believed to be hiding at north Lebanon's Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.

 In addition to the arrests, police officers confiscated a "large quantity of explosives" that were hidden in the Beirut apartment of Syrian suspect identified as Mustapha Siyor.

 Members of the network, according to the source, infiltrated into Lebanon from Syria last November under the cover of the so-called "Fatah-Islam" group, which was set up by Syrian intelligence with the objective of carrying out terrorist attacks to destabilize Lebanon and block the ratification of the international tribunal which would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.

 Siyor's cell had been operating under cover from an apartment in Beirut's Christian neighborhood of Karm el-Zaytoun, which is part of the capital's Ashrafiyeh district, the source said.

 However, Sabaah said the suspect had also rented apartments in Dora and Kornet Shehwan.

 Sabaa said police confiscated an explosive charge similar to the two used in the twin bus bombings at Ain Alaq.

 He said the suspects were also "ordered" to carry out a motorcycle bomb attack targeting the Phalange party office in the mountain resort of Bikfaya close to Ain Alaq.

 The daily newspaper al-Moustaqbal reported on Nov. 30 that Syrian President Bashar Assad has sent 200 terrorists to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to assassinate 36 Lebanese public figures.

 The group, according to the report, operated under the Fatah-Islam name.

 The security source said Fatah-Islam is just a "cover" for the terrorist network that operates in Lebanon from bases controlled by the so-called Fatah-Intifada group, a Syrian-controlled faction that broke away from Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah early in 1983 as part of an effort by the late Syrian President Hafez Assad to create a substitute for Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization.

 Fatah-Intifada, led from Damascus by the so-called Abu Moussa, runs fortified bases in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley established when the area was controlled by Syria's army which ended its deployment in Lebanon in April 2005.