Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq announced Wednesday that the suicide bombers who attacked the eastern border town of al-Qaa “came from Raqa,” the de facto capital of the Islamic State group in Syria, while noting that detainees recently arrested in Lebanon had confessed that the IS was seeking to “target touristic sites frequented by Westerners” in the country.
“Detainees in our custody have identified seven out of the eight bombers who targeted al-Qaa,” Mashnouq said in an interview on al-Jadeed television, noting that the detainees were shown pictures of the attackers’ faces.
“According to the detainees’ confessions, the seven criminals came from Syria, specifically from Raqa, not from the encampments” of the Syrian refugees in al-Qaa’s outskirts, the minister added.
“This is not an assumption. They came to carry out this specific attack and they were not residents of al-Qaa,” he said.
Four suicide bombers targeted al-Qaa in a pre-dawn attack on Monday, killing five people and wounding 15 others, as another four bombers attacked the town in the evening and wounded 13 people.
Al-Qaa is one of several border posts separating Lebanon and war-torn Syria and is predominantly Christian. The neighboring area of Masharii al-Qaa is home to thousands of Syrian refugees.
Faysal Aad, Joseph Lebbos, Majed Wehbe, Boulos al-Ahmar and George Fares were laid to rest at the town’s cemetery after a highly emotional funeral that was held amid strict security measures.
“The town of al-Qaa is Lebanon’s rock and on this rock the terrorists were crushed and they entered the gateways of hell while the gateways of heaven were opened for our martyrs,” Greek Catholic Archbishop of Baalbek Elias Rahal said at the funeral.
“We will remain in this land and we will not budge, even if we offer 100 martyrs everyday,” a defiant Rahal added.
Commenting on the rumors about the security situation that followed al-Qaa’s unprecedented and spectacular attacks, Mashnouq dismissed most of them, noting that the detainees did not mention Lebanese beaches or malls in their confessions.
“The confessions reveal that the terrorist groups are trying diversify their targets, after focusing on Hizbullah’s strongholds in the past, and there are ten likely targets according to the investigations,” the minister added.
“Touristic sites frequented by Westerners are the locations that the terrorists were seeking to target, according to the confessions,” Mashnouq said, confirming previous media reports.