BEIRUT, Lebanon – Terror suspects arrested for allegedly planning to bomb the Italian and Ukrainian embassies and assassinate Western embassy staff in Beirut were affiliated with Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda (search) network, Lebanese security officials said Wednesday.
Interior Minister Elias Murr identified the leaders of the plot as Ahmed Salim Mikati (search) and Ismail Mohammed al-Khatib (search), both Lebanese, and said eight Lebanese and Palestinian accomplices were arrested.
Khatib "is an Al Qaeda operative. ... His role was to recruit fundamentalist youth to carry out operations against coalition forces in Iraq," Murr said at a news conference.
Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum said both men "had links to Al Qaeda," the militant Muslim network that has sworn enmity to the West.
The group planned simultaneous bombings of the Italian and Ukrainian embassies and a few Lebanese "security and judicial targets," Murr said.
He said the group was also planning to assassinate employees working in Western embassies in Lebanon.
The ministry earlier said the group's unnamed leader has confessed to planning and preparing to send a car packed with 660 pounds of TNT to blow up the Italian Embassy in downtown Beirut.
Most members of the terrorist network, "which had links and received funding from some extremist cells in Europe," were arrested Tuesday, it said without elaborating.
Italy has about 3,000 troops in Iraq and Ukraine has about 1,600.
Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino issued a statement thanking the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI, for the "brilliant operation carried out in Lebanon." It also thanked Lebanese and Syrian secret services for their cooperation.
The Italian news agency ANSA had first reported the foiled plot late Tuesday.