Al-Qaeda terrorists
Al-Qaeda terrorists Reuters

Lebanese security forces have arrested an influential Syrian-born Islamist cleric who went into hiding last month after a crackdown in the northern city of Tripoli, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Omar Bakri, who praised Al-Qaeda in recent speeches, founded the outlawed British Islamist group Al Muhajiroun and was banished from Britain to Lebanon in 2005.

He sought refuge in the mainly Sunni city of Tripoli where he was popular among young hardline Sunni Muslims, according to the report.

"In the early hours of the morning we have arrested Omar Bakri from where he was hiding in Aley," Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said at a conference.

"This person has contributed in every aspect in supporting terrorism,"  added Machnouk, according to Reuters.

Bakri has repeatedly voiced his support for suicide bombings, and claimed that the deadly bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria was carried out by one of his disciples.

Lebanon has seen repeated sectarian clashes related to the civil war in neighboring Syria. These clashes only intensified when the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group joined the fighting in Syria.

Hezbollah’s strongholds in Lebanon have been the targets of repeated attacks ever since it acknowledged sending fighters into Syria to support President Bashar Al-Assad's troops as they battle rebels.

According to Reuters, Bakri fled Tripoli last month after security forces raided homes of several figures suspected of involvement in the sectarian fighting.

A security source said he was arrested in a furnished apartment he had moved to few days earlier in the mainly Druze city of Aley, in the mountains southeast of Beirut.

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