BEIRUT: A car containing a quarter ton of explosives that was seized by the Army Sunday was stolen in Lebanon, sent to Syria to be rigged and then brought back to Lebanon, a security source told The Daily Star.
The identity of the man who was driving the car when it was pursued and attacked by military officers remains unknown, the source added.
The discovery of the car days after the arrest of Naim Abbas, a man accused of coordinating several car bomb attacks in the southern suburbs and Hermel, shows that Lebanese security forces face an “open war” with terrorist groups in the country, the source added.
The Lebanese Army Sunday dismantled 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 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.
The source discounted speculation that the intended target of the car bomb had been Hadi Nasrallah Street, a major thoroughfare in the southern suburbs, saying that the ultimate destination of the car remained unknown.
The large amount of explosives could be an indication that the bombs were intended to be used in multiple cars, the source said.
Meanwhile Investigative Military Judge Fadi Sawan Monday issued arrest warrants for four individuals on charges of belonging to the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and planning terrorist attacks in Lebanon, a judicial source told The Daily Star.
The judge issued the warrants after interrogating three of the suspects named Abdel-Majid Hmeidan, Mohammad Ali and Alaa al-Mohammad, who hail from the northern region of Wadi Khaled.
The three were arrested in the eastern town of Labweh last week.
Sawan also issued an in absentia warrant against Omar al-Satem, who is reportedly fighting in Syria.
Satem is an ISIS commander in Syria’s Yabroud and he is the uncle of Qotaiba Mohammad al-Satem, who was identified as the suicide bomber behind the Jan. 2 deadly attack in Beirut’s southern suburb of Haret Hreik, the source said.
Satem trained the three suspects in Yabroud to carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon, the source added.
The National News Agency also reported that the three suspects met once with the ISIS emir in Syria’s Dankuk after visiting Yabroud.
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.
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.