BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army dismantled Sunday a rigged car laden with around 240 kilograms of explosives, the largest bomb seized by the military since the start of the recent wave of bombings in Lebanon. The Army said in a statement that around 240 kilograms of explosives were found in a four-wheel drive Toyota RAV4, in addition to 10 kilograms of flammable material and two 122-millimeter-caliber artillery shells.
The Army said it chased and opened fire at the suspicious car at around 11:15 a.m. on the outskirts of the Baalbek village of Ham. Soldiers were able to seize the car, the statement said, but the driver managed to escape.
The explosives were scattered in all parts of the car and linked to a 200-meter fuse with a remote-control detonator and a timer, the Army said. Sedatives were also found in the vehicle.
Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr ordered Army Intelligence to transfer the car to its headquarters and launch preliminary investigations.
“We are 100 percent sure that the car came from Syria,” an Army source told The Daily Star. He added that the driver of the car had fled to Syria.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said it was the first time that a rigged car was captured in that area. He added that it was not clear to investigators where the car was heading.
Last week, the Lebanese Army discovered two rigged cars, one in Beirut’s Corniche al-Mazraa neighborhood and another in the Bekaa Valley, reportedly as a result of confessions made by Palestinian detainee Naim Abbas, a leading figure in the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. The one discovered in Corniche al-Mazraa contained a 100-kilogram bomb.
The second car, seized by the Lebanese Army on the main Arsal-Labweh road, was rigged with 50 kilograms of explosives. The Kia had come from the rebel-held Syrian city of Yabroud and was destined for Beirut, the Army said.
The three women in the Kia were identified as Joumana Hmeid, Hala Rayed and Khadija Awdeh – all residents of the northeastern border town of Arsal.
Rayed and Awdeh were released over the weekend, judicial sources told The Daily Star.
Saqr ordered the release of the two women, because they were “not involved” in the case, the sources said. Hmeid, the woman driving the car, was still in custody, they added.
The sources said Hmeid was the only one who was aware that the car was rigged with explosives and was planning to hand over the Kia to Abbas in Aley.
A wave of bombings, including suicide bomb attacks, has rocked Lebanon since last July, most targeting the Beirut southern suburbs, a stronghold of Hezbollah, killing and wounding hundreds.
The majority of the explosions were claimed by Syrian rebel groups in retaliation for Hezbollah’s participation in Syria’s civil war alongside President Bashar Assad.