Lebanon interrogates Saudi jihadist tied to Iranian embassy attack

Published Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Updated 5:55 pm: Lebanese intelligence agents are interrogating the Saudi leader of a militant group that claimed a double suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last November, a Lebanese security source said on Wednesday.

The Lebanese source, who declined to be named, told Reuters that Majed al-Majed, the "emir" of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, had been arrested by the Lebanese army together with another Saudi militant.

But the source did not say when they were captured or identify the second man. He said Majed had been living in the city of Sidon.

The story of Majed's arrest first broke on Tuesday by Lebanon's LBCI television station which cited unnamed army sources who said the militant was arrested by army troops on Friday.

Reuters also cited two US national security sources on Tuesday who said Majed was in Lebanese custody.

And Lebanon's caretaker defense minister Fayez Ghosn was quoted by AFP Wednesday as saying that Majed was arrested and being interrogated by army intelligence.

But Ghosn later denied making any statement to AFP regarding Majed's case.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades was designated in the United States as a "terrorist organization" in 2012.

It had also claimed responsibility for firing a barrage of rockets towards occupied Palestine from southern Lebanon in August.

The group was formed in 2009 and is believed to have branches in both Lebanon and the Arabian Peninsula.

According to Islamist sites, Majed was revealed to be the leader of the Brigades in 2012.

In 2009, Lebanese authorities sentenced Majed in absentia to life in prison for belonging to a different extremist group, the al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam.

That group was involved in heavy fighting with the Lebanese army in 2007 in the Palestinian Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon, in which more than 400 people were killed, including 168 soldiers.

After the fighting, many members of the group took refuge in the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian camp, which is believed to house numerous Islamist extremists.

A Palestinian official in the camp told AFP on Wednesday that Majed had left Ain al-Helweh in mid-2012 for Syria.

"With the war in Syria, we decided that (non-Palestinian) Arab citizens would not be allowed to remain in the camp, after information that jihadists were fighting alongside the rebels," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"He left the camp with five Saudis and Kuwaitis and they went to Syria. We didn't know that he had returned to Lebanon."

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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