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Former Lebanese minister indicted in Syrian terror plot

Michel Samaha, a former pro-Syrian information minister, faces the death penalty.

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Lebanese police arrested a former government minister for colluding with Syria to destabilize Lebanon. (YouTube/Screengrab)

A Lebanese judge has recommended the death penalty for a former pro-Syrian Lebanese minister, alleging that he was involved in a series of terror plots.

Michel Samaha, along with Syria's security chief Ali Mamlouk, have been accused of "transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders," according to the indictment report, BBC reported.

Mamlouk and Samaha were also accused of targeting Syrian gunmen and smugglers along Lebanon's northern border with Syria, according to Middle East Online.

Samaha, a member of parliament, was arrested in Beirut in August, after Lebanese authorities claimed he had smuggled 24 explosive devices into Lebanon. 

The explosives would have been used in Sunni majority areas of the country during the end of Ramadan, essentially exporting Syria's civil war to Lebanon, Reuters reported

His arrest came as a shock to Lebanon, where the current coalition government includes Syria's allies. Samaha was the former information minister, and has been known for having close ties to the Damascus regime, the Beirut Star reported.

Tensions have been on the rise between Lebanese Hezbollah forces and Syrian rebels in recent weeks. Clashes have broken out between the two groups along the border areas and rebels accuse Hezbollah of shelling Syrian towns in support of the Syrian army.

Rebel leaders in Idlib confirmed Wednesday that the Free Syrian army will launch an attack on Hezbollah inside Lebanon if the shelling does not stop immediately. Hezbollah has not officially responded to the Free Syrian Army statement.

Hezbollah is Lebanon's largest Shia militant group and the Syrian government's second largest supporter after the Shia-dominated Iranian government. An increased involvement in the Syrian conflict could potentially destabilise the entire region, which has been plagued by sectarian violence for centuries.

The UN estimated death toll this week reached 70,000, with 850,000 refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. Inside Syria, almost 4 million more have been displaced and are in need of aid.

The World Heath Organisation stated Tuesday that unsanitary conditions has led to a typhoid outbreak in Northern Syria with about 2,500 people infected so far.

Tracey Shelton reported from Antakya, Turkey.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/lebanon/130220/michel-samaha-former-lebanese-minister-indicted-syr