By Dana Kraiche and Rakan al-Fakih
The Daily Star
BEIRUT/HERMEL: The Lebanese Army arrested Wednesday a commander in the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades after raiding a Bekaa Valley residence.
During the raid the Army also shot and killed a second suspect allegedly involved in aiding the leader of the brigades.
The raid came weeks after the military apprehended the group’s Saudi leader, Majid al-Majid, who died on Jan. 4 from complications arising from multiple illnesses at a military hospital in Beirut, days after his arrest.
The Al-Qaeda offshoot claimed reasonability for the Nov. 19 suicide attacks near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, which killed 30 people including an Iranian diplomat.
The military said in a statement that the Army Intelligence apprehended a commander in the Al-Qaeda-linked group, identified as Jamal Daftardar, after its personnel raided a residence in the Bekaa Valley town of Kamed al-Loz.
Daftardar also goes by the name Mohammad Ahmad al-Masri, who was considered the main candidate to take over the leadership of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades following Majid’s death, a security source told The Daily Star.
Daftardar, who had a Syrian identification card at the time of his arrest, entered Lebanon six months ago after being severely injured in the leg and back, the source said.
Conflicting reports emerged about the nationality of the senior operative. The source said that his actual nationality was difficult to discern because of his various aliases.
The Army also said that the intelligence unit shot and wounded another suspect during the raid. The suspect, who threatened intelligence personnel with a hand grenade, later died of his wounds.
A security source, speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, identified the suspect as Mazen Abu Abbas.
Abu Abbas, along with other accomplices, is believed to have helped transport Majid to a Beirut hospital from the Bekaa Valley, the source added. The military was unable to interrogate Majid due to his deteriorating health condition.
Majid’s remains were repatriated to Saudi Arabia last week.
In its statement, the Army said the arrests came as part of ongoing investigations into a twin suicide attack on separate military checkpoints in the coastal city of Sidon.
Separately, General Security arrested a Palestinian man this week suspected of involvement in the Iranian Embassy attack, a security source told The Daily Star.
The brigades claim Majid spearheaded the twin suicide bombings outside embassy and accused Hezbollah of cutting off the senior operative’s life support while he was recuperating at the hospital.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the group vowed to carry out Majid’s legacy and continue to launch attacks against Iran and Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Iran dispatched its Deputy Justice Minister Abdol-Ali Mirkouhi to Lebanon, part of an Iranian delegation to follow up on Lebanon’s investigation into the embassy bombings and Majid’s case.
The delegation is expected to meet with a number of Lebanese officials.