BEIRUT: A Syrian suspect is in the custody of Lebanese authorities as part of a probe into the July car bombing that targeted the southern suburb of Beirut, caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn announced Friday.
A car bomb ripped through the southern suburb of Bir al-Abed on July 9, wounding over 50 people, in an attack widely seen as linked to the ongoing crisis in neighboring Syria.
Ghosn identified the suspect as Syrian Hussam Al-Dine Abu Halaq, who was arrested by Army Intelligence a month ago. The minister said Halaq had links to others suspected of involvement in the bombing that fueled further fears of Lebanon being dragged into the crisis next door.
According to the statement, a Kia, stolen by force in the Khaldeh region of south Beirut the night before the attack, was the vehicle used in the bombing. The car had been parked at a local cooperative in Bir al-Abed, a residential and commercial area of the southern suburb that was heavily damaged in the blast.
Ghosn’s statement also disclosed information on suspects involved in other security-related incidents that have escalated security tensions in Lebanon, including two separate attacks on the Army in the east of the country.
According to the statement, a man identified as Hasan Hussein Rayed who was arrested last month confessed that he and nine accomplices were behind an attack on a Lebanese Army checkpoint in Wadi Hmayyed, east Lebanon, which led to the killing of three soldiers.
Rayed named Omar Ahmad Atrash, Sami Ahmad Atrash, Ubaida Mustafa al-Hujeiri, Sameh Breidi and four Syrians as his accomplices.
According to Rayed’s confession, Omar Atrash was the mastermind of the group.
Rayed also confessed to being responsible for two roadside bombs last month that exploded near an Army checkpoint near Hermel, east Lebanon.
The statement said Rayed confessed that he and his accomplices had planned for several car bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs and other Lebanese regions.
Ghosn also said that Army Intelligence had strong leads into the twin rocket attacks on Beirut’s southern suburb of Shiyyah in May.
The defense minister said that he was disclosing the sensitive information in the interest of public opinion, in a bid to “to prevent strife” in the country.
He warned that Lebanon was starting to slip into the “grip of terrorism” and urged the Lebanese to rally around the military institution and support it in its missions.