Last updated: 15 January, 2014

Lebanon army says jihadist commander arrested

Lebanon’s army on Wednesday announced the arrest of a commander loyal to Al-Qaeda, adding he was involved in an attack against the military last month.

“The army intelligence command successfully arrested at dawn today (Wednesday) a commander of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, the wanted terrorist Jamal Daftardar, in a raid… in a village in the western Bekaa valley,” an army statement said.

The military also said another group member, “who threatened to launch a hand grenade, was fired on and died on the spot”.

The statement said the Daftardar’s whereabouts were discovered in the course of an investigation “into the attack by a terrorist group against an army checkpoint in Sidon (southern Lebanon) on December 15”.

Twin attacks, one by a suicide bomber, targeted two army checkpoints in Sidon, southern Lebanon’s main city, killing an army officer.

An ensuing firefight killed four attackers.

Daftardar was born in Tripoli, a majority Sunni city in northern Lebanon that sees frequent sectarian fighting related to the war in neighbouring Syria.

He is accused by the Lebanese judicial authorities of membership to “a gang whose aim is to commit crimes against people and financial interests, and to undermine the state’s authority.”

Daftardar is also accused of “possession of weapons and transporting explosive material, with a view to staging terrorist attacks,” according to the text of an indictment issued in May 2008.

Daftardar was among dozens of people who had arrest warrants issued against them after a 2007 battle pitted Islamists loyal to the radical Fatah al-Islam group against Lebanon’s army in Nahr al-Bared, in the north of the country.

Daftardar’s arrest comes days after the death in custody of Majid al-Majid, head of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, which had claimed responsibility for a November attack against Iran’s embassy in Beirut that killed 25 people.

Majid died of poor health, a judicial source said.

The group has also claimed responsibility for launching rockets against Israel.

The Abdallah Azzam Brigades, which describes itself as loyal to Al-Qaeda, has been listed by the United States as a terrorist organisation since 2009.