Tue Mar 13, 3:43 PM

A Lebanese policeman walks past the site where bomb blasts tore through two buses in the village of Ain Alak, northeast of Beirut, on 13 February 2007.  Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked Palestinian splinter group have admitted carrying out last month's deadly Lebanon bus bombings, a government official told AFP Tuesday.(AFP/File/Ramzi Haidar) Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked Palestinian splinter group have admitted carrying out last month’s deadly Lebanon bus bombings

But the Fatah Islam group swiftly denied any involvement and accused the Lebanese government of trying to pave the way for an offensive against the dozen or so camps in Lebanon, which house more than half of the country’s nearly 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

The official said six suspected members of the group were in custody, some of them nationals of once-dominant neighbour Syria

He said all had confessed to their part in the February 13 bombings which killed three people and wounded 18 in a mountainous Christian area northeast of Beirut.

Another two members of the cell were still at large, the official added, asking not to be identified.

It was the first time a Lebanese official had spoken of the arrest of suspects in the bombings.

The detained suspects confessed to carrying out the bombings from a rented flat in the Ashrafiyeh area of Christian east Beirut. The rental was made in the name of Syrian Mustafa Shiyo, the official said.

The suspects said they had also been plotting to carry out attacks against the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, he added.

But in a statement released in the group’s Nahr al-Bared refugee camp stronghold, Fatah-Islam described the accusations as "completely fabricated."

"There are efforts afoot to implicate our movement in what is happening in Lebanon in order to pave the way for hostile operations against the refugee camps and the Palestinian presence in Lebanon," the statement said.

Palestinian officials in Lebanon’s refugee camps have expressed mounting concern about Fatah-Islam in recent months.

In December, the Lebanon chief of the mainstream Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the group had sent 150 Arab fighters from Iraq  into Lebanon

The militants were able to enter Lebanon without the knowledge of Syrian authorities, who have since arrested another Palestinian leader on suspicion of organizing their movements, Sultan Abul Aynain said.

Abul Aynain described Fatah-Islam as a "fundamentalist movement with an ideology close to Al-Qaeda’s and which is financed by (Al-Qaeda chief Osama) bin Laden."

The Al-Mustaqbal daily, owned by the family of slain anti-Syrian former premier Rafiq Hariri said at the time that the 200 militants "are part of a terrorist plot by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad aiming to assassinate 36 (anti-Syrian) Lebanese figures."

Hariri was one of six critics of Damascus killed in Lebanon over the past two years in attacks blamed by many on the Syrian regime. Damascus denies links to the attacks.