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Lebanon detains top suspect in car bomb campaign

Hassan Abu Afleh, arrested in Beirut, is suspected of being a leading figure in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades

Published: Updated:

Lebanese security forces have detained a Sunni militant suspected of recruiting suicide bombers and assembling car bombs for a radical group that was behind attacks on Iranian interests in Beirut, security sources said on Friday, according to Reuters News Agency.

They said Hassan Abu Afleh, arrested in Beirut this week, is suspected of being a leading figure in the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, the group that claimed responsibility for Wednesday's twin suicide attack near the Iranian cultural centre that killed eight people.

The same group said it was behind an attack in November on the Iranian embassy and warned of further attacks until Hezbollah withdraws its fighters from Lebanon’s neighbor Syria.

It follows the arrest last week of Naim Abbas, another leading militant identified by one of the security sources as working for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - a hardline Sunni group that is fighting in Syria.

Details of the latest arrest had not emerged sooner because of the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, the toll in the double suicide car bombing outside the Iranian cultural center has risen to 11, Lebanon’s official news agency said.

The National News Agency said an Ethiopian woman wounded in Wednesday’s attacks had died in a Beirut hospital.

On Wednesday, Lebanese authorities identified a suicide bomber behind this week’s twin bombings in the Bir Hasan neighborhood in Beirut.

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) identified one of the bombers as Palestinian Nidal al-Mghayer, who hails from Baysariyeh in the southern city of Tyre.

The NNA said a fake ID with Mghayer’s photograph was found at the scene of the crime and that the Palestinian was a supporter of fugitive Salafist sheikh Ahmad Assir.

Assir, a staunch opponent of Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar Assad, was behind last year’s deadly ambush on an Army checkpoint in the southern city of Sidon. The Army retaliated and ensuing clashes led to the killing of at least 18 soldiers and dozens of Assir’s gunmen.

The release of the photograph sparked anger in Baysariyeh, Mghayer’s village in Tyre and the NNA said a number of unidentified assailants set fire to Mghayer’s residence. A car parked at the estate was also set on fire, the agency said.

There are reports the second bomber also hails from Baysariyeh.