Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanon deployed military units to the south of the country on Wednesday as part of operations to pursue Islamist militants fleeing the port city of Tripoli and after receiving intelligence of planned terrorist attacks in the region.
According to local media reports, the army uncovered six bomb detonators in an abandoned house southeast of Sidon and arrested one suspected militant in connection to an unrelated foiled attack.
Lebanese troops also raided a number of houses in Sidon and the surrounding areas, arresting a number of Lebanese and Syrian nationals with suspected ties to armed groups on Wednesday and Thursday.
Lebanese military spokesman also announced the arrest of 80 suspects in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley and on the outskirts of the city of Arsal on Wednesday, after running gun battles with troops.
It was unclear whether any Lebanese soldiers or suspected militants had been killed in the clashes, though Lebanese military confirmed that assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, hand grenades and other military equipment had been seized.
The latest arrests raised the number of suspected militants captured after four days of street fighting in Tripoli ended on Monday to over 200.
The increased security and military presence comes after Lebanese troops liberated Tripoli from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters and other Islamist militants who had been seeking to establish an Islamic emirate in the port city.
At least 150 Islamist militants are believed to have fled the city amid fears that they could seek to carry out attacks on state infrastructure as they make their way across the border to Syria.
Lebanese army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi inspected troops stationed in Tripoli on Wednesday, praised the Lebanese military and security forces, and pledged to hunt down the fleeing Islamist militants.
Lebanon’s army earlier this week had called on the fleeing militants to hand themselves over or “be hunted down” following the liberation of Tripoli.