DNA confirms identity of suspected Beirut suicide bomber

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A Lebanese woman walks on January 3, 2014 past the site of a car bomb that targeted Beirut's southern suburb of Haret Hreik the day before. (Photo: AFP - Joseph Eid)

Published Friday, January 3, 2014

Updated 10:45 pm: DNA test results confirmed the identity of a man from northern Lebanon as the suspected suicide bomber behind Thursday's deadly attack in the southern Beirut suburbs, state news reported late-Friday.

The remains of 19-year-old Koteiba Mohammed al-Satem were discovered inside the vehicle that detonated in the Haret Hreik neighborhood Thursday afternoon killing at least four people and injuring dozens more.

The young man's father said his son had been missing since December 30, according to army sources who interrogated him on Friday.

His DNA was matched to samples provided to investigators by his mother Fawzia at an army station near their home village of Wadi Khaled, which sits on the Syrian border in the northern Akkar district.

Satem's identity card was discovered at the scene of the blast, which led investigators to suspect the university student of involvement in the explosion.

Residents of Wadi Khaled condemned the bombing in a statement issued by the municipality on Friday, but raised serious doubts that Satem could have been behind the attack.

The statement claimed that Satem did not know how to drive, and said he was not known for having political or sectarian affiliations.

CCTV footage aired by Al Manar television on Friday shows Thursday's explosion. A Jeep Grand Cherokee appeared to be moving slowly down a road before suddenly igniting while making a left turn.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud have both said that evidence points to a suicide attack, but no official declaration has been issued over the incident.

The attack was the fourth such bombing in Beirut's southern suburbs known as Dahiyeh since July 2013. It appeared to target civilians in the densely populated neighborhood packed with shops, clothing stores and restaurants.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion, but previous attacks were believed to have been carried out by al-Qaeda-linked groups or groups with ties to the Islamist rebels fighting in Syria.

Unconfirmed media reports published Friday said the suspect may have been affiliated with rebels who have repeatedly threatened to attack Lebanese targets in retaliation for Hezbollah's intervention in the Syrian conflict on the side of government forces.

Thursday's explosion came six days after a massive car bomb killed former finance Minister Mohammed Shatah and seven others in downtown Beirut. There is no clear connection between the two bombings.

(Al-Akhbar)

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