Lebanon has indicted 18 suspected members of the ISIL Takfiri militant group on charges of planning to set up an emirate in the north of the Arab country.
The suspects, who were not identified and whose nationalities remain unknown, are also accused of attacks on Lebanese army soldiers besides plotting to occupy villages in the northern Dinniyeh region to establish an emirate. The charges are punishable by the death penalty.
Fifteen of the individuals are on the run.
Among the suspects is 46-year-old Ahmad Salim Miqati, who is a high-level operative for the ISIL; he goes by the noms de guerre Abu Bakr and Abu al-Hoda.
He is accused of “taking part in operations against the army, inciting the murder of its troops, stirring sectarian strife and possessing arms and explosives.”
Miqati’s arrest last week sparked three days of deadly clashes between Lebanese armed forces and gunmen in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli, situated 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of the capital Beirut.
On Wednesday, Lebanese security forces exchanged fire with al-Qaeda-linked militants in the Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria. Local sources said the clashes erupted outside the towns of Deir al-Ghazal and Qusaya on Wednesday when al-Nusra Front militants tried to infiltrate into Lebanon from Syria.
Over the past months, Lebanon has been suffering from terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda-affiliated militants as well as random rocket attacks, which are viewed as a spillover of the conflict in Syria.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011 with the ISIL Takfiri terrorists currently controlling parts of it mostly in the east and north.