BEIRUT: Lebanon’s army on Wednesday arrested a commander of a group loyal to al Qaeda that in November claimed a twin suicide attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 25 people.
“After careful follow-up and monitoring, the (army) intelligence directorate in Beirut arrested the terrorist Naim Abbas, a commander of the Abdallah Azzam brigades,” the army said in a statement.
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.
The arrest of its Saudi leader Majid al Majid was announced in early January. He died days later from poor health.
Abbas’ detention also follows the indictment of a sheikh, Omar Ibrahim al Atrash, in connection with two suicide bombings in southern Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, 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 Abdallah Azzam brigades and 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 Abdallah Azzam brigades.
Though Lebanon is officially neutral in Syria’s conflict, the country is deeply divided over the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
Shia Hezbollah supports his regime and has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to back his troops.
Sunnis support the anti-Assad revolt, and militants have carried out numerous car bomb and suicide attacks against Hezbollah-dominated areas, killing civilians.