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Palestinians deny bomber lived in Ain al-Hilweh
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SIDON, Lebanon: A senior Fatah official dismissed Monday media reports that a Palestinian suspect in the twin suicide attack against the Iranian Embassy last month was living in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp.

“There is no one among the residents of the camp who has ties with a suicide bomber or with the bombings which targeted the Iranian Embassy, Tripoli or Ruwaiss,” said Maj. Gen. Subhi Abu Arab, the head of the Palestinian National Security Forces, a policing force in Ain al-Hilweh.

Abu Arab added that Palestinian and Islamist factions in Ain al-Hilweh were working on preserving security in the camp.

“We are always interested in protecting the security of Ain al-Hilweh’s environs just as our neighbors are eager to preserve the security of the camp,” Abu Arab told The Daily Star.

“We are against strife here and there. We want all people to support the Palestinian cause because it is the major cause,” he said.

Last month, two suicide bombers targeted the Iranian Embassy in the Bir Hasan neighborhood of Beirut, killing 30 people and wounding scores more.

The two bombers were identified as Lebanese Mouin Abu Dahr, from Sidon, and Palestinian refugee Adnan Mousa Mohammad. Mohammad was from Ain al-Hilweh but lived in the southern village of Bisarieh. Hours after the attack, the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the operation.

The explosion followed a series of bombings which rocked the Beirut southern suburbs of Bir al-Abed and Ruwaiss along with the northern city of Tripoli in recent months.

Media reports said Monday that Lebanese security suspected Palestinian Sheikh Bahaaeddine Hujeir, who lives in Ain al-Hilweh, was the link between the two suicide bombers and the group which masterminded the operation. The reports said the 24-year-old sheikh disappeared immediately following the operation.

Hujeir studied Islamic Shariah law for three years in Saudi Arabia, according to media reports. Following his return to Lebanon, Hujeir began leading prayers in a mosque in the coastal village of Jadra in the Chouf near Sidon and teaching Salafist lessons at a religious center in the city.

Following the Nov. 19 suicide attack, Hujeir had not been seen in either the mosque or the religious center. He is also a member of the Muslim Scholars Committee, headed by Tripoli-based Salafist Sheikh Salem Rafei. Hujeir lives with his family in the Tiri neighborhood of Ain al-Hilweh, and his father is a member of the Palestinian Liberation Front.

Reports said he refused to hand himself over to Lebanese authorities.

Hujeir is also suspected of having ties with Sheikh Sirajeddine Zuraiqat, the religious guide of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades who claimed responsibility for the attack on its Twitter account.

Hujeir was also close to Abu Dahr and to Nathalie Qassas, Abu Dahr’s fiancée, who is being held at the Defense Ministry for investigation.

Speaking to The Daily Star, a senior judicial source, who requested to remain anonymous, said the reports were mere media speculations with no concrete basis.

Abu Arab said the reports aimed to drag the camp into unwanted conflicts. Commenting on a series of security incidents the camp witnessed over the past weeks, Abu Arab said an external hand was trying to spark strife in Ain al-Hilweh.

“All factions in the camp denounce such acts,” Abu Arab said, “and stand united against this project that targets the camp.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 10, 2013, on page 3.
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