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Saudi jihadist held in Lebanon dies

BEIRUT, Jan 4, (Agencies): A Saudi man suspected of leading an al-Qaedalinked group has died in detention in Lebanon from kidney failure, a judicial source told AFP Saturday. “Majid al-Majid, who suffered from kidney disease and was in poor health, has died,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Majid was the suspected head of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which claimed responsibility for an attack in November on the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed 25 people. A Lebanese minister this week told AFP that Majid had been arrested by army intelligence.

Saudi Arabia had hailed Majid’s detention, and the Iranian embassy in Beirut had requested access to the investigation into the double suicide bombing. The attack on the embassy came amid rising tensions in Lebanon over the role of the Tehran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah in the war in neighbouring Syria. Hezbollah and Iran are allied with the Syrian regime, and Hezbollah has sent fighters to help battle the Sunni-led insurgency, which is supported by its opponents in Lebanon. In claiming the embassy bombing, brigades member Sirajeddin Zreikat warned of more attacks in Lebanon if Hezbollah keeps sending troops to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In 2009, Lebanon sentenced Majid in absentia to life in prison for belonging to a different extremist group, the al-Qaedainspired Fatah al-Islam. An al-Qaeda linked group claimed responsibility on Saturday for a suicide car bombing last week in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon, as its fighters clashed with other rebels in neighboring Syria.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s operations, now in both countries, underscore how the ever more complex Syrian war is increasingly spilling over into its smaller neighbor. At least five people were killed in the Thursday attack that targeted a south Beirut neighborhood that is bastion of support for the Shiite group Hezbollah. ISIL vowed more attacks. It was “the first small payment of a heavy account which these criminal hypocrites should wait for,” it said in a statement, referring to Hezbollah. The claim was posted on a website used by Sunni militants. The US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant websites, also published the news. The al-Qaida group sought to punish Hezbollah — and their ordinary Shiite Lebanese backers — for sending fighters to Syria. It was the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months.

The violence has targeted both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, further stoking sectarian tensions that are already running high as each community in Lebanon lines up with its brethren in Syria on opposing sides of the war. But the bombing also reflected how Lebanese are turning on each other. Also Saturday, Lebanese authorities confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber, the state news agency reported. Local media identified him as a citizen from northern Lebanon.

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