Lebanon Army attackers linked to Nusra Front, Assir

Lebanon Army attackers linked to Nusra Front, Assir
Tue Dec 17, 2013 09:08:25

Fresh details have emerged about the twin suicide attacks against the Lebanese Army, as security sources said the perpetrators were likely linked to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front in Syria and Salafist preacher Ahmad al-Assir.

Top officials strongly on Monday condemned what they described as terrorist attacks against the Army, saying they threatened Lebanon’s stability.

The Army described the assault as a suicide attack in a statement that offered a rare and detailed insight into Sunday night’s events, which at one point saw an attacker hug an Army officer before detonating a handheld grenade.

At 9 p.m., three men approached an Army checkpoint at the Awali River bridge by Sidon’s northern entrance on foot. When asked to show their IDs, one of the attackers dashed toward a soldier, waving a hand grenade.

The soldier opened fire, killing the attacker and causing the grenade to explode. Two soldiers were wounded, the statement said, and the two other men who were with the attacker fled the scene.

None of the assailants in the Awali attack were identified by the Army.

Another grenade was found in the dead attacker’s pocket and was immediately dismantled by an Army expert, the statement added.

Some 45 minutes later, the Army came under attack again in Majdalyoun.

The Army had set up a checkpoint following the first attack and was inspecting a brown GMC Envoy when one of the passengers stepped out of the vehicle, hugged Sgt. Samer Rizk and detonated a hand grenade, killing himself and the officer. He also wounded a soldier, the statement said.

The attacker was identified by the Army as Bahaeddine al-Sayyed, a Palestinian. Fellow passengers Mohammad Jamil al-Zarif and Ibrahim al-Mir, both Lebanese, were killed after troops opened fired on the car.

Though the Army only named three assailants in the second attack, Army Intelligence have identified a fourth suspect also killed in the vehicle as Husam al-Sayyed, Bahaeddine’s brother, security sources told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.

The Army confiscated several hand grenades and automatic rifles from the vehicle as well as hundreds of rounds of rifle ammunition.

An investigation is underway to determine whether the men involved in the Awali incident have any connection to the group that attacked the Majdalyoun checkpoint.

The security sources, citing a preliminary investigation, said the suspects in the attacks may have links not only to Sheikh Assir but also the Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda-linked rebel group in Syria fighting government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad.

Husam al-Sayyed had returned from Syria a month ago after having fought alongside rebels, the sources said.

They said one of the Majdalyoun attackers had also appeared in a photo alongside Mouin Abu Dahr, one of two suicide bombers who attacked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut last month.

In June, deadly clashes broke out between the Army and gunmen loyal to Assir who were outspoken critics of Hezbollah. The confrontation left 18 soldiers and dozens of Assir’s supporters dead.

The Lebanese Army Monday deployed armored personnel carriers in and around Sidon.


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