BEIRUT: The suicide bomber behind the attack against a police checkpoint in east Lebanon was Syrian, the shop owner who tipped off police said Saturday.
“He had a Syrian accent and told me he was Syrian from Zabadani,” Ramzi Sayegh, the owner of a shop in the eastern village of Sofar, told Al-Jadeed television.
During the interview, Sayegh identified the man in a photo released by the Lebanese Army a day earlier as the man who he reported to police.
The Army released a photo of a man suspected of being the suicide bomber behind the explosion, asking citizens with information to come forward.
Sayegh said the man he encountered was wearing a hat, a yellow T-shirt and a pair of faded jeans.
The man’s demeanor, his suspicious behavior and his silver Nissan Murano, which the shop owner said was in bad shape, prompted Sayegh to contact the Sofar Police department.
“Two policemen came to me in a jeep, and I told them the direction where the man went,” he said, adding that his son contacted him an hour later to tell him that the man he reported had blown himself up at a police checkpoint.
On his way from the Bekaa Valley to Beirut, the suicide bomber stopped in Sofar for coffee, a security source told The Daily Star Friday. The shop owner immediately contacted police after he noticed the customer was too nervous.
The bomber then made his way to Aley but raced back to the Bekaa after security forces intercepted his vehicle.
At the Dahr al-Baidar checkpoint, police officers cut off the road with a pick-up truck. When asked to step out for inspection, the driver detonated the explosive-rigged vehicle, killing a 49-year-old police officer and wounding 32 other people.
The 4WD was rigged with at least 25 kilograms of explosives and an investigation is ongoing to determine the bomber’s target and who was behind the attack.
The shadowy group Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying they could not “reach their target today but they will do so later.”