BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Lebanon identifies leader of Al-Qaeda-linked group

This undated file picture shows who is believed to be the head of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades Majid al-Majid. (The Daily Star Photo)

BEIRUT: DNA tests confirmed Friday the identity of a Saudi national in the custody of Lebanese authorities is that of Majid al-Majid, the head of an Al-Qaeda offshoot that claimed responsibility for last year’s deadly bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.

Also Friday, Tehran said it would soon dispatch an Iranian delegation to Lebanon to take part in Majid’s interrogation, according to Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry.

Security sources said DNA samples taken from Majid’s relatives in Saudi Arabia matched samples taken from the Saudi national who was apprehended in Lebanon last week by the Lebanese Army.

“One sample [taken from the detainee] showed to be significantly related to a sample taken from Majid’s cousins,” one of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

In a statement, the Lebanese Army said the DNA results confirmed Majid was the suspect in their custody, describing the Saudi as one “the most dangerous wanted” men.

Earlier this week, a security source said Majid’s arrest came as a result of intercepting information both inside and outside the country and that the Saudi was undergoing kidney dialysis at the Military Hospital in Badaro. The source said interrogation had not yet begun due to Majid’s deteriorating health.

Majid is the head of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, the group that claimed responsibility for the Nov. 19 suicide bombings at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut that killed 30 people, including an Iranian diplomat.

He is wanted by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Hours after the embassy bombing, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, through its religious guide, warned of further attacks until Hezbollah withdrew its fighters from Syria.

The Al-Qaeda linked group has also been blamed for attacks in Egypt and Jordan and has claimed responsibility for rockets launched from Lebanon into Israel in recent years.

Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Lebanon, Ali Awad Asiri, has hinted Riyadh would seek Majid’s extradition. Majid is on Riyadh’s list of 85 most-wanted individuals for links to Al-Qaeda.

However, Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said Thursday Lebanon reserved the right to investigate Majid and prosecute him in the country without handing him over to any party.

Mansour said extraditing Majid to any country required pre-existing bilateral agreements between Lebanon and the concerned state.

The Foreign Ministry told The Daily Star Friday that Lebanon has not received any formal request from Saudi Arabia to extradite Majid, adding that Beirut and Riyadh lacked pre-existing bilateral agreements that would allow for such a step.

The Ministry said in the event Riyadh requested the extradition, the request would be referred to the Justice Ministry for consideration.

“It is the Justice Ministry that has the last say. We are just a mailbox,” a source at the Foreign Ministry said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a phone call with his Lebanese counterpart Friday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran had decided to send a delegation to Beirut to take part in Majid’s questioning, according to a Foreign Ministry statement carried by IRNA.

“Due to the lack of security in the region and given that two Iranian embassy [staff] as well as a number of Lebanese citizens were killed, the Islamic Republic decided to send a delegation to Beirut to cooperate in the interrogation with this terrorist [Majid],” Zarif said.

For his part, Mansour said he appreciated Tehran’s willingness to cooperate with Beirut in the investigation with “this terrorist.”

Also Friday, relatives of the victims from the Nov. 19 embassy bombing called for trying Majid in Lebanon, voicing their opposition to any extradition.

“Majid al-Majid committed his crimes in Lebanon and he should not be handed in to any foreign side whatsoever,” a spokesperson for the families of the victims said in a press conference held in Beirut.

The relatives also said that they were preparing lawsuits against Majid and anyone linked to the bombings that also wounded 150 others.

They also thanked the Army command for its “great efforts” that led to Majid’s arrest.

 

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