Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, a Saudi citizen was detained in Lebanon in late December and had been held at a secret location.
The head of the Al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, who had been earlier nabbed by Lebanese authorities in connection with the bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut, has died in custody.
Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, a Saudi national, whose group had claimed responsibility of the November 19 suicide attacks on the Iranian mission, apparently died in a Beirut hospital of kidney failure.
Iran’s Fars News Agency (FNA) is quoting a Lebanese army General as saying that al-Majid had died on Saturday. In remarks attributed to another official, the agency said that the interrogation of the militant had been delayed because of his poor health condition.
Iran and its regional rival Saudi Arabia both wanted to get access to the deceased. Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Saeed Asiri, had been quoted as saying that Lebanon should extradite the detainee to the Kingdom in case his identity is confirmed. Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had on Friday, called his Lebanese counterpart,
Adnan Mansour to convey that Tehran planned “to dispatch a delegation to Lebanon to cooperate in the interrogation of the perpetrator of the terrorist attack against Iranian Embassy in Beirut,” Iran’s English language broadcaster Press TV reported.
al-Majid’s arrest, apparently in late December, seemed to have escalated tensions, which were already running high, between Tehran and Riyadh. Iranian officials and Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Lebanese Hezbollah, a top Iranian ally, had accused Saudi Arabia of masterminding the embassy attacks, in which 25 people, including the Iranian cultural attaché had been killed. Mr. Nasrallah said last month during the course of a television interview that Abdullah Azzam Brigades “is a bona fide group that has a Saudi emir and its leadership is directly linked to Saudi intelligence”.
While full clarity about the circumstances of al-Majid’s death is yet to emerge, the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar has revealed details about the militant’s arrest. The daily points out that the tip-off about al-Majid’s location came in the form of cable from the military intelligence of the United States to the Strategic Security Branch at the Lebanese Defence Ministry.
The cable revealed that al-Majid was residing in a mountainous area near the Lebanese border town of Ersal. Another cable conveyed that the wanted man, in poor health, may be moved to a Beirut hospital to undergo urgent dialysis. A third cable confirmed that al-Majid had indeed been moved to Beirut’s Makassed Hospital on December 24. The commander of the Abdullah Azam Brigades was arrested after sunset on December 26 as he was being transported, after discharge from hospital, along the international highway leading to the Bekka valley.