Lebanon’s army on Wednesday arrested a commander of a group loyal to al-Qaeda, who revealed the presence of a booby-trapped car in Beirut, one of two car bombs dismantled by Lebanese forces in a day.
“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.
Lebanese forces dismantled the car bomb containing 100 kilograms of explosives in Beirut’s Corniche al-Mazraa on Wednesday morning, as well as another one in the Bekaa Valley, an army statement said.
El-Nashra reported on Wednesday afternoon that the man who was supposed to detonate the Corniche al-Mazraa car bomb was arrested. The news website identified the man as Mohammed Mahmoud.
“Immediately after the start of his interrogation, Abbas admitted having prepared a car bomb to detonate it later,” the statement read “The car found in Corniche al-Mazraa was dismantled by experts, with about 100 kilograms of explosives and explosive belts on board, in addition to a number of shells.”
The army added that Abbas had revealed the existence of several other hidden car bombs, which were currently being investigated.
The car bomb dismantled in the northeastern town of Labweh in the Bekaa Valley contained 40 kilograms of explosives.
“The Army also uncovered a second car heading from Yabroud in Syria into the Lebanese territory and then Beirut,” the army statement said. “Three women were inside the car and delivering it to suicide bombers.”
The three women in the vehicle were arrested, the statement added.
The leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Saudi national Majed al-Majed, was arrested in early January by the Lebanese army. He died days later, allegedly from poor health.
“It was he (Abbas) who confessed and gave the location of these two cars. So far two cars have been discovered but many more will follow,” a security source told Reuters, calling Abbas “a mastermind of car bombs.”
The army also said that it had put Abbas under surveillance for some time after receiving information about his involvement in recent bombings, adding it had watched him closely since he left a Palestinian camp in south Lebanon before arresting him.
Abbas, a Palestinian, was snatched from his house in a Beirut suburb in a special operation led by the Lebanese army in the early hours of Wednesday.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which describes itself as loyal to al-Qaeda, had claimed a November twin suicide attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 25 people.
Abbas’ detention also follows the indictment of a sheikh, Omar Ibrahim al-Atrash, in connection with two suicide bombings in southern Beirut that killed at least six people.
In a late January army statement on Atrash, the army had said Abbas was among three “wanted men” loyal to the Abdullah Azzam brigades and the al-Nusra Front, Syria’s al-Qaeda branch.
In recent months, Lebanon has seen a string of deadly attacks linked to Syria’s war, claimed by al-Qaeda-linked groups including the Abdullah Azzam brigades.
Though Lebanon is officially neutral in Syria’s conflict, the country is deeply divided over the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)