BEIRUT: Tehran has asked Lebanon to take part in the ongoing investigation with a Saudi man suspected of being the head of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades that claimed responsibility for the Iranian Embassy bombings, Iran’s envoy said Thursday.
"Iran officially asked Lebanon to participate in the investigation with Majid al-Majid given that he is the one responsible for the Iranian Embassy bombings,” Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Ruknabadi told a local television.
Caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour also confirmed Iran’s request.
A security source told The Daily Star Thursday DNA samples from the suspect have been sent to Saudi Arabia and that the results are expected to be announced later in the day.
It was not clear when and where al-Majid was arrested.
Al-Majid has lived in the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Ain el-Hilweh which he left a month ago to Syria and joined the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra, fighting against regime forces.
Wanted by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, al-Majed is the head of Abdallah Azzam Brigades, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, which claimed a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last November that killed 30 people, including an Iranian diplomat, and wounded 150 others.
The Abdallah Azzam Brigades has also been blamed for attacks in Egypt and Jordan and has claimed responsibility for rocket attacks from Lebanon into Israel in recent years.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has accused Saudi intelligence of being behind the Nov. 19 attack.
“We believe the Abdallah Azzam Brigades’ statement about the bombing ... this is a bona fide group that has a Saudi emir and its leadership is directly linked to Saudi intelligence,” Nasrallah said at the time.
Al-Majid had also sent jihadists from Ain el-Hilweh to fight in Iraq during the U.S. occupation and is suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Lebanon.
An Iranian national security official, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, praised Lebanon's apprehension of al-Majid, blaming him for the embassy attack.
Boroujerdi told Fares News Agency Wednesday the suicide bombings in Beirut deserve attention given that the mastermind of the operation is a Saudi national.
In remarks to pan-Arab al-Hayat, Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri said Lebanon has informed Riyadh about the arrest of a Saudi citizen.
“Lebanese authorities have informed the Saudi embassy in Beirut that they managed to arrest [head of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades] Majid al-Majid," Ali Awad Asiri said in remarks published Thursday.
“According to Lebanese authorities’ preliminary information, the man arrested is most likely Majid al-Majid,” Asiri added. “They are waiting to conduct DNA tests to be 100% sure.”
Asiri said Lebanese authorities were still interrogating the suspect, adding that the Saudi embassy was following up on the issue, primarily in terms of the detainee’s identity.
“Al-Majid is a Saudi citizen and no doubt [Riyadh] would like to have him back after verifying his identity,” he told Al-Riyadh newspaper.
Al-Majid is on Saudi Arabia’s list of 85 most-wanted individuals for links to Al-Qaeda.
But Asiri said Al-Majid’s extradition would take some time since Lebanese authorities were still questioning him and because of his deteriorating health condition.
Lebanon’s caretaker foreign affairs minister said Lebanon preserved the right to investigate Al-Majid and prosecute him in the country without handing him over to any party.
Speaking to Al-Manar television, Mansour said extraditing Al-Majed to any country required preexisting bilateral agreements between Lebanon and the concerned state.
Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh rejected handing Majid to another state and said that the Lebanese authorities should investigate with Majid and take legal action against him.
“Handing in [Majid] would not just be a dangerous precedence but a flagrant violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and a blow to the achievement of arresting him,” Franjieh said in a statement.
“A state that respects its sovereignty and laws does not give up on them at the request of any other country, how about if the detainee is guilty, dangerous and an inciter of strife and sabotage?” he said.
Franjieh urged the state not to hand in Majid to any state and hold his trial in Lebanon “to preserve what is left of our nation's prestige, the sovereignty of our country and the security of our citizens.