Lebanese authorities, in coordination with US law enforcement agencies, have arrested a Lebanese Al-Qaeda operative who admitted to plotting a terror attack in New York City, a senior security official in Lebanon said on Friday.
The senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the arrest of the operative was made a month ago.
The suspect was identified as Amir Andalousli, but his real name is as Assem Hammoud, a Beirut native, the official said, adding the suspect was still in Lebanese custody. A Lebanese government official also confirmed Andalousli was arrested, but gave no details.
Two law enforcement officials in Washington said earlier on Friday that US authorities had disrupted a plan by foreign terrorists to attack New York City tunnels.
FBI agents monitoring Internet chat rooms used by Islamic extremists learned in recent months of the plot to strike a blow at the city's economy by destroying vital transportation networks, the law enforcement officials said.
The planning was not far along, one US official said, but authorities "take aspirations of that sort seriously." "At this time we have no indication of any imminent threat to the New York transportation system, or anywhere else in the US," Richard Kolko, Washington-based FBI special agent, said in a statement to Associated Press Radio.
The senior Lebanese security official said the information exchanged between Lebanese and US authorities pointed to Andalousli as being part of an international network that aimed to blow up tunnels around Manhattan.
"Hammoud is a member of Al-Qaeda and he confessed to this (plot) information frankly and without coercion," the Lebanese security official said.
The US Embassy in Beirut would not comment on the matter. "We have seen the reports," an embassy spokesperson said. "We are in touch with the government of Lebanon on the case," the spokesperson added, requesting anonymity.
The spokesperson also said that both Lebanon and the United States are developing solid cooperation in the areas of law enforcement and counterterrorism. "Preventing terrorist attacks is in the interest of both of our countries," the embassy official said.
The planning for the tunnel attacks was first reported by the New York Daily News in its Friday editions, the first anniversary of the attacks on the London transportation system that killed 52 people.