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DNA test confirms Majid’s identity

  • Relatives of people who were killed in the Ruweiss explosion, carry their pictures during a press conference at the Press Federation in Beirut, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

  • 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 have confirmed the identity of a Saudi national in Lebanese custody is that of Majid al-Majid, the suspected leader of an Al-Qaeda-linked group that claimed responsibility for last year’s suicide bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, the Army said Friday.

Also Friday, Tehran said it would dispatch a delegation to Lebanon to take part in Majid’s investigation.

The Army said in a terse statement that the results of DNA tests had confirmed the suspect in its custody was Majid al-Majid. It described Majid, who was arrested by Army intelligence agents on Dec. 26, as one of the “most dangerous wanted men.”

In an earlier statement, the Army denied media reports on the circumstances that led to the arrest of “a terrorist,” a clear reference to Majid.

“The Army Command confirms that it is still conducting its investigation in complete secrecy and is not responsible for any information published on this issue or on the ongoing investigation,” the statement said.

Media reports said Majid was arrested with another Saudi man also wanted for involvement in attacks.

A security source said Thursday 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 twin suicide bombings at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, which killed 30 people, including a diplomat. He is also wanted by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia for alleged terror attacks.

The group has also been blamed for bombings in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen and several Western countries, including the U.S., and has claimed responsibility for rockets launched from Lebanon into Israel.

Officials and private experts in Washington said Majid raised funds in the Gulf for militants fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A medical official told AFP that Majid’s interrogation “has been delayed because he is in poor health” and that he was being heavily guarded at the Military Hospital.

The doctor who had been treating Majid before his arrest without knowing who he was said he suffered from kidney failure and required regular dialysis.

“On Dec. 26, the hospital where Majid was being treated contacted the Red Cross to arrange his transfer to another hospital,” the source said.

But before the suspect arrived at the second facility, “the Lebanese Army Intelligence intercepted the ambulance and arrested Majid.”

A judicial source said Majid’s extradition to Saudi Arabia or any other country was out of the question before the man was interrogated and tried for his group’s alleged involvement in the bombings.

“The next step is for the Lebanese Army Intelligence is to investigate Majid before referring him to a military court, which will decide on whether to put him on trial over the Iranian Embassy bombings,” the source told The Daily Star.

“If convicted in the Iranian Embassy bombings, Majid will have to serve out his sentence first before the Lebanese government can consider any extradition request.”

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

A source at the Foreign Ministry told The Daily Star that Lebanon had not received any formal request from Saudi Arabia to extradite Majid.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, speaking by phone with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Friday, said Tehran had decided to send a delegation to Beirut to take part in Majid’s investigation, the National News Agency reported.

Also Friday, families of the victims of the embassy bombings called for Majid to be tried in Lebanon, voicing opposition to any extradition.

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

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 04, 2014, on page 1.
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