Lebanon News

Terror suspect testifies on car bombs sent to Lebanon

File - Naim Abbas, a member of Abdullah Azzam Brigades, was arrested by the Lebanese army in Corniche Mazraa, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Army Website, HO)

BEIRUT: Naim Abbas, a Palestinian belonging to an Al-Qaeda-linked group charged in connection with two bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs, told a military court Friday about how he sent explosive-rigged vehicles from Syria’s Qalamoun region to Lebanon.

He also provided testimony on two terror suspects, Ihab Hallak, a Lebanese, and Obaidullah Zeaiter, a Syrian, pending his trial on a host of terror charges.

Abbas, arrested Feb. 12 last year, gave his testimony on Hallak and Zeaiter, who have been accused of belonging to the Nusra Front, Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, and sending explosive-rigged vehicles and suicide bombers from the Qalamoun region to Lebanon with forged identification cards and driving licenses.

Abbas was among 23 terror suspects, including two members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, for whom a Lebanese military investigative judge demanded the death penalty last July on terror charges.

Abbas was earlier charged in connection with the August 2013 suicide bombing in the Ruwaiss neighborhood and the January 2014 suicide blast in the Haret Hreik district in Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Hezbollah enjoys broad support.

Abbas was also linked to the 2013 clashes between the Lebanese Army and supporters of radical preacher Ahmad Assir in Abra, east of the southern city of Sidon and of involvement in the March 2011 kidnapping of seven Estonians near the eastern city of Zahle.

The delay to Abbas’ trial was because his lawyer, Tarek Shandab, had boycotted court sessions to protest what he called a violation of the procedures stipulated in the penal trial code.

However, Abbas’ testimony Friday exposed a major part of his dangerous security role.

Appearing before the military court headed by Maj. Gen. Khalil Ibrahim, Abbas referred to himself as an “explosives expert” who lived at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh on the outskirts of Sidon, where he was trained by an Al-Qaeda commander named “Abu Mohammad” on how to rig vehicles with explosives.

According to his curriculum vitae read in court by Ibrahim, Abbas was first trained on armed attacks as a member of the Fatah Movement before joining an Al-Qaeda organization. He was later appointed as a senior military official of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.

Abbas told the court that he traveled from Ain al-Hilweh to the Qalamoun region through illegal border crossings, where he met with Abu Malek al-Talleh, a military commander of the Nusra Front.

Abbas recounted his meeting with Talleh in which they discussed equipping vehicles with explosives and suicide bombers and designated Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut’s southern suburbs as the targets.

He also said that he had told the Nusra commander he would not accept explosive-laden vehicles, preferring to rig them personally, given his experience in the field.

Abbas acknowledged that he received four explosive-rigged vehicles, along with a number of suicide bombers, which he sent to Lebanon, adding that one of those vehicles exploded at Nabi Othman near the border with Syria.

Abbas denied meeting Hallak and Zeaiter, who were present in court, at Talleh’s headquarters, even though Hallak testified that he had met Abbas at least once but was introduced to him as “Abu Khaled.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 25, 2015, on page 3.

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