BEIRUT, Lebanon, AP – An alleged plot to assassinate the leader of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah guerrilla group aimed to plunge Lebanon into an Iraq-style sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites, Lebanese politicians said Tuesday.
Lebanon’s top military magistrate formally charged and issued arrest warrants on Tuesday against nine people for plotting to carry out terror attacks, including the possible assassination of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.
The magistrate, Rashid Mezher, charged the nine with “establishing a gang to carry out terrorist acts, undermining the state’s authority and trading in and transporting military arms and explosives.”
Officials have not said if a country or organization is believed to be behind the cell.
On Monday, a senior Lebanese military official said the plot against Nasrallah had not reached “the phase of implementation.”
The reported plot to kill one of Lebanon’s top Shiite clerics and politicians by rockets came as fears of sectarian strife between Shiites and Sunnis have rippled through the Middle East.
Foiling this “terrible conspiracy … spared the country disasters with no limits,” said former Prime Minister Salim Hoss, a moderate Sunni politician.
Referring to the sectarian violence in Iraq, Hoss said all Lebanese “are concerned that there are some (people) in Lebanon who want to spread the (Iraqi) contagion to our country.”
“God still loves Lebanon,” Christian leader Gen. Michel Aoun said on the arrests.
Hezbollah, which the United States and Israel brand as a terrorist group, is a major political force in Lebanon. The group credits itself with liberating south Lebanon from Israeli troops in 2000.