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Daily Israel Report

Palestinian Al Qaeda Leader Arrested in Lebanon

Naim Abbas, Palestinian Arab leader of the Al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, arrested after setting car bomb.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/12/2014, 8:02 PM

A Lebanese soldier stands at the site of a car bombing in Beirut, Aug. 16
A Lebanese soldier stands at the site of a car bombing in Beirut, Aug. 16
Reuters

The Lebanese Army arrested a senior Al Qaeda leader Wednesday - Naim Abbas, who is the deputy chief of the Al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. 

"After he came out of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilwen near Sidon in the south, the army intelligence in Beirut made the arrest of Naim Abbas, who is being questioned under the supervision of the judiciary," the Lebanese army said, in an official statement.

Abbas officially confessed to setting a car bomb in a southern suburb of Beirut, according to the statement. 

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility last year for the November 19, 2013 bombing near the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The blast ripped through the embassy, located in a Hezbollah stronghold of the capital, killing 23 people and wounding 146.

Abbas's name was revealed during last month's arrest of Lebanese Sheikh Omar Atrash, according to the Daily StarAtrash and 12 other wanted fugitives were charged with recruiting potential terrorists, arms smuggling from Syria to Lebanon, and detonating car bombs in both countries. Specifically, they were accused of placing car bomb traps in a number of attacks on Lebanese soil, including the January 2 and January 21 car bombings in Hezbollah-linked areas of Beirut. 

Atrash was also found to have ties to several Al Qaeda linked groups, including the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, the Al Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). 

Abbas was originally a member of the Islamic Jihad movement, according to the Star, and lived in the Hittin neighborhood of the Ain-el Hilweh Palestinian Arab camp in southern Lebanon. The military noted that he had been under close surveillance since he left Ain el-Hilweh; he was arrested during an Army raid in Beirut's Afif al-Tibeh neighborhood, near Corniche Mazraa.

"Immediately after interrogation began, he [Abbas] confessed that he had prepared a car bomb to be set off later and that the car was left in Corniche Mazraa," the Army said. The confession led soldiers to a parking lot there; the Army added that the bomb, weighing 100 kilograms (220 pounds), was safely disabled. Explosives belts and several rockets were also removed from the vehicle.

Abbas also led the Army to car bomb hideouts "that are currently being raided," according to the Lebanese daily.

"This is a big catch given the role Abbas played in terrorist acts and the recent wave of car bombings across the country, particularly in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the northeastern town of Hermel," a high-ranking security source told the Star. He added that authorities are hoping to use Abbas's arrest as a springboard for information about the January 2 and January 16 car bombings. 

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades’ previous attacks outside of Lebanon include rocket fire on Israel. The group has attacked northern Israel multiple times over the past several years and has vowed to continue. But its main target as of late has been Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia terrorist group which has drawn anger among Sunni Muslims for aiding the Syrian regime of Bashar-al Assad against the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to oust him.