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Sources: Lebanon thwarts attack on U.S. Embassy

From Brent Sadler

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- A planned rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has been thwarted by Lebanese authorities, Lebanese sources told CNN Thursday.

Nine people -- Lebanese and Palestinians -- have been detained, the sources said. The sources elaborated on a communique from the commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army saying a terror network planning an attack on a major embassy was broken.

The arrests were the result of a massive two-day security operation.

Several U.S. officials Thursday confirmed the arrests but say they took place about 10 days ago. "It's a little bit of old news that is just now getting out there," one official explained.

"For the last couple of weeks and months (Lebanese authorities) have been hot on the trail of individual suspects responsible for attacks on Western franchises," the U.S. official added.

Ten days ago, he said, the Lebanese "nabbed" nine of them.

In addition, this official said, the United States is working with Lebanon to investigate a "potential al Qaeda link" between these suspects and the notorious terrorist group with loosely linked, active cells around the world.

Two other U.S. officials said the investigation involved a possible attack on the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, but that "nothing definitive" was known.

"I am not aware of any new arrests other than the ones two or so weeks ago," one official said.

The group is also suspected of plotting attacks on Lebanese and Syrian military and security installations in northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, the official Lebanese sources said. There are thousands of Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon.

Also, the group planned to kidnap members of the Lebanese parliament and Cabinet in order to gain leverage to negotiate the release of 20 people in jail arrested three years ago after a crackdown on a terrorist hub, the sources said.

The breakup of the group is the result of close coordination between Syrian and Lebanon military intelligence services. Authorities say it represents a blow against terror.

News of the plot came three days after 25 people -- including eight Americans -- were killed in suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia. Nine suspected suicide bombers also died in Monday's attacks in Riyadh. Saudi and U.S. officials have said al Qaeda is suspected in the attacks.

From CNN Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler and CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel and producer Elise Labott.

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