BEIRUT/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanon was waiting Thursday for the results of DNA test to confirm the identity of a Saudi man believed to be Majid al-Majid, Al-Qaeda’s No. 1 leader in Lebanon.
DNA tests are underway in Riyadh to confirm Majid’s identity by matching it against known relatives, a security source told The Daily Star.
Wanted by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, Majid is the head of Abdullah 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 and wounded 150 others. Tehran asked Lebanon for permission to take part in the ongoing investigation into a Saudi man suspected of being the head of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which claimed responsibility for November’s Iranian Embassy bombings, Iran’s envoy said Thursday. It was not clear when and where Majid was arrested.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades has also been blamed for attacks in Egypt and Jordan and has claimed responsibility for rockets launched from Lebanon into Israel in recent years.
“Iran officially asked Lebanon [for permission 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 station. Caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour confirmed Iran’s request.
Majid had also sent jihadists from Ain al-Hilweh to fight in Iraq during the U.S. occupation and is suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Lebanon.
Majid was living in the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Ain al-Hilweh until a month ago when he left to join the ranks of Nusra Front and fight against the regime in Syria, the security source said. He reportedly re-entered Lebanon about two weeks prior to his arrest on a valid passport belonging to another individual. He stayed several days to receive medical treatment at the Makassed Hospital in Beirut for kidney problems, and was reportedly planning on traveling to Iraq via Syria when Army Intelligence arrested him between Hazmieh and Jamhour in Mount Lebanon, the source said.
The source told The Daily Star that Majid’s arrest came as a result of intercepting information both inside and outside the country, adding that the suspect was being treated at the Military Hospital in Badaro. The source said interrogation had not yet begun due to Majid’s deteriorating health.
“It is not easy to extract confessions from someone as dangerous [as Majid],” the source told The Daily Star.
The investigation will focus on Majid’s alleged crimes in Lebanon, including the launching of rockets into Israel, the bombing of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the south, and the blasts at the Iranian Embassy, the source said. The source characterized the arrest as a “success” for the state and its security apparatus and warned of a possible retaliation from Majid’s followers.
An Iranian national security official, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, praised Lebanon’s apprehension of Majid, blaming him for the embassy attack.
Boroujerdi told Fars News Agency the suicide bombings in Beirut deserved attention given that the mastermind of the operation was a Saudi national.
In remarks to pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri confirmed Lebanon had informed Riyadh about the arrest of a Saudi citizen. Although the kingdom is reportedly seeking the extradition of Majid, who is wanted in his home country, Asiri said it “would take some time.”
Mansour said Lebanon reserved the right to investigate Majid and prosecute him in the country without handing him over to any party. Speaking to Al-Manar television, Mansour said extraditing Majid to any country required pre-existing bilateral agreements between Lebanon and the concerned state.
Meanwhile, less than two days after authorities reportedly arrested Majid, the Lebanese Army detained Thursday 13 members of a Syrian family staying in the northern Beddawi camp accused of having ties to extremist groups.
Palestinian security sources told The Daily Star that they surrounded the Shreydi Complex where the family was staying and arrested three members before calling the Lebanese authorities.
The operations reportedly followed a decision by Beddawi’s leaders not to allow any non-Palestinian or non-Lebanese into the camp. The camp’s factions and residents accused the family of having ties to the Nusra Front, while others said they belonged to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.
The Lebanese Army arrived on the scene after receiving the call from the Palestinian security forces and searched the entire complex. They arrested 10 more individuals and also reportedly discovered a weapons cache and a silver Mercedes, which were transferred to the Army barracks in Qibbeh. Of the 13 suspected, only Omar Hussein Omar was identified. Palestinian officials highlighted that security was a “red line” not to be crossed, and that if the family was proven innocent they would be released.