Al Qaeda flag
Al Qaeda flagAFP photo

The Lebanese Army arrested a high-level Al-Qaeda operative on Thursday, who is allegedly involved in the murders of UNIFIL soldiers in Arsal and the raiding of a large weapons depot in Tripoli.

The suspect: Palestinian Arab Bilal Kayed, a suspected member of the Al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades who has several arrest warrants out against him, a statement by the military said.

The Army accused Kayed as being involved in the 2007 murder of several Spanish UNIFIL soldiers and several bombings. He is also accused of other counts of murder, attempted murder and arms smuggling, as well as several acts of vandalism.

Security sources told local news outlet The Daily Star that Kayed was arrested near the northern town of Arsal as part of a security crackdown on top terrorists. The army has hailed his arrest as a "major milestone," according to the sources. 

The sources added that Kayed was the main suspect in a 2007 bombing that targeted a checkpoint manned by UNIFIL’s Tanzanian contingent. He also allegedly crossed the border to fight in Syria multiple times before being arrested. 

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades has a long history of waging violent attacks against Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia 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.

The group's most high-profile attack came late last year, when it claimed responsibility for the November 19, 2013 bombing of 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.

Lebanon then arrested the group’s leader, Majed bin Muhammad al-Majed, who later died while in custody. In response, the group vowed to keep up its attacks against Iran, Hezbollah and Israel.

Attacks stepped up again several months ago, despite Lebanese officials arresting al-Majed's replacement, Naim Abbas. Abbas led authorities to car bombs which had already been placed for another potential attack.