BEIRUT (AP) – A Lebanese military court has convicted eight men of plotting to attack U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, a court official said Saturday.
Three Palestinians tried in absentia were sentenced to life in prison and five Lebanese in custody were each given three years in Friday’s ruling, the official said. He did not provide details of the plot or say whether the men were affiliated with a particular militant group.
Several attacks have targeted the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon in recent years, though it is unclear who is behind them. In the most deadly attack, a car bomb killed six Spanish peacekeepers in June 2007.
No group claimed responsibility, but Al Qaeda’s deputy chief, Ayman al-Zawahri, praised the attack. In an audio recording, he also called on Sunni militants last year “to expel the invading Crusaders who pretend to be peacekeeping forces in Lebanon and not to accept Resolution 1701.”
That U.N. resolution ended the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. A 13,000-strong U.N. force, known as UNIFIL, was deployed on Lebanon’s border with Israel along with 15,000 Lebanese troops to monitor the truce.
The eight men convicted Friday were also found guilty of establishing an armed gang with the aim of weakening state authority, transporting military arms and explosives and training to carry out terror attacks, including the firing of rockets in south Lebanon, the court official said. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.