Last updated: 11 January, 2015

Lebanon army identifies Tripoli suicide bombers

The Lebanese army released the names on Sunday of two suicide bombers who killed nine people in second city Tripoli in the latest violence linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Lebanon released Sunday the names of two suicide bombers who killed nine people in second city Tripoli, as one of the dead was praised as a “hero” who helped save lives.

The Saturday attack on a cafe in a Tripoli neighbourhood mainly inhabited by members of the Alawite sect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was claimed by the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda.

Security sources said the bombers were both Lebanese, from a Sunni district of Tripoli known for its sympathy for the rebels fighting to topple the Damascus regime.

“According to the military experts’ initial investigations at the scene of the explosion that hit Jabal Mohsen, the two suicide attackers’ names are Taha Samir al-Khayal and Bilal Mohammad al-Maraiyan,” an army statement said.

They were both residents of the mainly Sunni Mankubeen district, which lies just 500 metres (yards) from Jabal Mohsen, the army said.

A security source told AFP that Khayal, 20, had been wanted by authorities on suspicion of having links to extremist groups and of taking part in deadly fighting with Jabal Mohsen residents last year.

There have been repeated clashes between residents of the Alawite neighbourhood and those of adjacent Sunni districts. The Alawite community is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Khayal’s “whereabouts were unknown for the past three weeks,” the source said, adding there were suspicions he had travelled to Syria’s Qalamun mountains, a stronghold of hardline Islamist groups.

The second bomber was a 26-year-old father of one with no criminal record, the source said.

Among the victims of the attack was 62-year-old Issa Khaddur, a father of six, who was buried Sunday amid cries by mourners that he had stopped the attackers from taking even more lives.

“My father sacrificed himself in order to save the lives of others in the cafe. He would have died anyway, but he didn’t die in vain,” said Ali, his eldest son.

Hundreds of mourners attended a funeral Sunday afternoon for those killed in Jabal Mohsen, with marchers chanting “let the hero’s coffin through first,” in reference to Khaddur.

Ali told AFP that his father was a regular at the cafe, where each day he would sit and smoke a narghile (water-pipe).

But on Saturday, after the first blast, he saw the second bomber approaching the cafe.

“He threw himself on the bomber, and pinned him down,” said Ali.

“Because of that, half of the explosives belt did not explode, limiting the damage the bomber would have caused.