Lebanese army seizes arms cache
Lebanese emergency personnel inspect the wreckage of a minibus at the site of an explosion on February 3, 2014 in Shoueifat, south of the capital Beirut. [AFP]
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The Lebanese Army confiscated mortars and ammunition in a raid carried out Wednesday in Akkar, as arrest warrants were issued against three suspects in a suicide bombing which rocked a town south of Beirut this week.
The military establishment said in a statement that it confiscated six mortars of different calibers, a grad rocket, machine guns, sniper rifles, mortar shells, mines, bombs and ammunition when raiding an empty house on the outskirts of the Akkar village of Aydamoun.
The house, which was being used as an arms cache, was rented by Wael Abdel-Karim, a Syrian national.
The municipality of Aydamoun-Shekhlar condemned the presence of the arms cache in the village, saying that residents of the village backed the Lebanese Army.
Separately, Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr issued arrest warrants for three detained suspects in Monday’s suicide bombing in Shoueifat, including the taxi driver who dropped off the suicide bomber moments before the attack.
Saqr referred taxi driver Issa Ghosn and two other individuals to the Lebanese Army Intelligence Directorate for further interrogation.
A source familiar with the investigation told The Daily Star that Army Intelligence would be tasked with verifying whether they had a link to or any knowledge of the suicide bomber, whose identity has yet to be revealed. Interrogation will also focus on the suicide bomber’s intended target.
A suicide bomber Monday detonated his explosives belt on a passenger van in Shoueifat, killing himself and wounding two other people, including the bus driver.
The Nusra Front in Lebanon, an offshoot of a radical Syrian rebel group, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted a Hezbollah checkpoint in retaliation for the party’s involvement in Syria’s war alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad. The same group said it was behind suicide attacks in Beirut’s southern suburbs and in Hermel in northeast Lebanon, both areas where support for Hezbollah runs strong.
Ghosn told investigators earlier this week that he had picked up the bomber from Khaldeh, south of Beirut, and dropped him off in Shoueifat after noticing his passenger was carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. The two other detainees were also in the cab during the ride.
Saqr also filed charges against detained Lebanese Sheikh Omar Atrash and five others who remain at large over involvement in the two suicide bombings which rocked Beirut’s southern suburb of Haret Hreik on Jan. 2 and Jan. 21. The five other suspects hold Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian nationalities.
The six were also charged with belonging to Al-Qaeda, to the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades and of “carrying out terrorist acts, killing and attempting to kill dozens of people, wrecking public and private property and undermining state authority.”
The charges were filed based on articles in the penal code and terrorism law that call for applying capital punishment.
Saqr referred Atrash to First Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda, who will interrogate him and file an arrest warrant against him along with arrest warrants in absentia against the other five.
Separately, Military Investigative Judge Imad Zein interrogated detainee Jamal Daftardar at the military hospital in Beirut and issued an arrest warrant against him. Zein postponed the interrogation session until Feb. 19. Daftardar is charged with being a member of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al-Qaeda.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings which rocked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in November, killing 30 people, including an Iranian diplomat.
Meanwhile, police cordoned off two separate locations in Beirut’s southern suburbs and searched vehicles suspected of containing explosives.