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Lebanese man behind deadly ISIS suicide blast in Iraq

Lebanese Sunni Islamists shout slogans and wave flags as they march during a protest in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, August 4, 2014, condemning the Lebanese army for bombarding Arsal. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A Lebanese man was behind an attack that left 15 people dead in Baghdad Tuesday, ISIS announced Wednesday, the second case of a citizen of Lebanon dying in Iraq while fighting with the group.

Hisham al-Hajj, known by his nom du guerre Abu Talha al-Lubnani, drove a vehicle packed with 300 kilograms of explosives into a crowded center in New Baghdad, east of the capital. The attack, which occurred during the morning rush hour, wounded at least 37 people, according to AFP.

A picture of the alleged suicide bomber carrying a weapon with the caption “the creators of life,” circulated on social media, and he was later identified as Hajj, a religious man who hails from the close-knit area of Rifaiya in north Lebanon’s Tripoli. He was believed to be in his mid-20s and went missing during the spring earlier this year.

A security source told The Daily Star that Hajj was believed to be fighting in Syria before news of his death in Iraq was reported.

According to the source, his parents received a call from an ISIS member congratulating them for the death of their child.

“But his parents were neither accepting condolences nor congratulations,” the source said.

“When his parents aren’t [publically] accepting congratulations, this means they aren’t happy that he blew himself up,” the security source explained, referring to a tradition among Salafists to celebrate rather than mourn such a death, which they consider martyrdom. His parents could not be reached for comment.

A number of the city’s residents have joined the ranks of the Syrian opposition, including the Free Syrian Army and the Nusra Front, to carry out suicide attacks against the Syrian Army, but this is only the second case in recent years of a Lebanese person dying while fighting in Iraq.

Last month, Mustapha Abdal-Hay, known as Abu Hafs al-Lubnani, blew himself up during a suicide attack in Baghdad. He reportedly hailed from the Tripoli neighborhood of Mankoubin and fought alongside the Nusra Front in Syria’s Homs city before joining ISIS and going to Iraq.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 28, 2014, on page 3.

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