Aoun’s spokesman said the group had been in charge of protecting the former army chief’s residence outside Beirut in 2005 and that the photos released by the authorities were taken at least 18 months ago. His comments came after security officials on Thursday announced that two FPM members had been arrested for undergoing paramilitary training, fanning tensions ahead of a delayed presidential vote.

The security forces accompanied their announcement with photographs of uniformed young men and women armed with machine guns. Authorities said the group was receiving instruction in the use of weapons in the Jbeil region north of the capital.

But Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat, a member of the cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, said the government could not tolerate political parties each having their own security forces."Such a situation could lead to a new civil war," he warned.