Lebanese intelligence questioning Saudi militant, security source says

BEIRUT Wed Jan 1, 2014 10:49am EST

1 of 2. A forensic inspector examines the site of the two suicide bombings that occurred on Tuesday near Iran's embassy compound in Beirut November 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sharif Karim

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese intelligence agents are interrogating the Saudi leader of a militant group that claimed a double suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last November, a Lebanese security source said on Wednesday.

U.S. national security sources on Tuesday confirmed the detention of Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, reported leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which operates throughout the Middle East and has links to al Qaeda.

The Lebanese source, who declined to be named, said Majid had been arrested by the Lebanese army together with another Saudi militant, but did not say when they were captured or identify the second man. He said Majid had been living in the city of Sidon.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades' Twitter account, from which they claimed the attack on the Iranian embassy, did not mention the arrest.

A civil war in neighboring Syria that pits majority Sunni Muslim rebels against President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to a sect close to Shi'ism, has deepened sectarian resentment in Lebanon, whose own 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

Sunni hardline militant groups, including al Qaeda affiliates, have carried out attacks against the Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah group, an ally of Assad and of Shi'ite Iran.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades have threatened more attacks in Lebanon unless Iran pulls its forces out of Syria, according to tweets at the time of the embassy bombing.

According to the Long War Journal, a respected counter-terrorism blog, Majid is among 85 individuals identified on a Saudi government list issued in 2009 as most wanted for their alleged involvement with al Qaeda.

The blog said that the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, named after a founder of al Qaeda and associate of the late Osama bin Laden, were formed sometime after 2005 as a spin-off of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Street clashes and bomb attacks have increased in Lebanon as Syria's 2-1/2-year war has intensified, the latest being a bomb attack on December 27 that killed six people including a Lebanese ex-minister who opposed Assad. In Syria, more than 100,000 have been killed.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes)

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