Last updated: 12 February, 2014

Lebanon army arrests commander of jihadist group

Lebanon’s army on Wednesday said it arrested a commander of a group loyal to Al-Qaeda and defused two car bombs, one in Beirut and the other in the country’s east.

“After careful follow-up and monitoring, the (army) intelligence directorate in Beirut arrested the terrorist Naim Abbas, a commander of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades,” the army said in a statement.

The army said it had been monitoring Abbas, a Palestinian, for a while, “after receiving information about his role in preparing and detonating car bombs.”

The army also said it had defused two car bombs, the first in the western Beirut neighbourhood of Corniche al-Mazraa.

It said the car contained around 100 kilogrammes of explosives and explosive belts as well as mortar shells.

The statement said the army had also seized a second car “which came into Lebanese territory from Yabrud in Syria and was going to Beirut.”

The army said three women were in the car and had been detained.

Yabrud is a town not far from the Lebanese border inside Syria which is under rebel control.

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

It claimed a November twin suicide attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed 25 people.

Its Saudi leader Majid al-Majid was arrested in early January and died days later from poor health.

Abbas’s detention also follows the indictment of a Sunni Muslim sheikh, Omar Ibrahim al-Atrash, in connection with two suicide bombings in southern Beirut that killed at least six people.

In a late January statement on Atrash, the army had said Abbas was among three “wanted men” loyal to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

Lebanon has seen a string of deadly attacks linked to Syria’s war, claimed by Al-Qaeda-linked groups including the Abdullah Azzam Brigades.

Although officially neutral in Syria’s conflict, Lebanon is deeply divided over the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Shiite Hezbollah movement has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support the regime.

Sunnis support the anti-Assad revolt, and Sunni jihadists have carried out numerous car bomb and suicide attacks against Hezbollah-dominated areas, killing civilians.