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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 2:45 pm

Lebanese, Syrian officials indicted in bomb plot

The Associated Press

A Lebanese judge on Wednesday indicted three people, including a former Cabinet minister and a top Syrian intelligence general, in a bombing plot in Lebanon, a move that could raise tension in Lebanon over the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The National News Agency said military investigative judge, Riad Abu Ghaida, demanded the death penalty for former information minister, Michel Samaha, Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk and a Syrian colonel who was identified only by his first name, Adnan.

Mamlouk, who heads Syria's powerful National Security Council, was accused of being involved with Samaha in plotting a wave of attacks in Lebanon at the behest of Syria. The August arrest of Samaha, a close aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad, was an embarrassing blow to Syria, which has long acted with impunity in Lebanon.

Lebanon, a country plagued by decades of strife, has been on edge since the deadly uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries and there are fears in Lebanon that Syria's civil war could spill across the border.

Lebanese are divided between those who support Assad and others who back the opposition. Clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian groups have left dozens of people dead during the past two years.

According to the indictment that was carried by the news agency, the former Lebanese information minister moved the explosives from Syria to Lebanon in his personal car after they were handed to him by the Syrian colonel.

The indictment said the former minister, Samaha, told the Syrian colonel and general that he would recruit people to carry out attacks in Lebanon's northern region of Akkar targeting Syrian rebels and weapons smugglers to Syria. It said Mamlouk, the general, told Samaha that "hindering weapons smuggling into Syria and carrying out attacks against Syrian gunmen and smugglers is good for the Syrian regime."