A tip-off by Western intelligence agencies tracking al Qaeda in Syria led to the Lebanese arrest of Majid al-Majid, the Saudi leader of the al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. This group has been held responsible for recent bombing attacks on the Iranian embassy in Beirut and Hizballah strongholds, as well as rocket attacks on northern Israel four months ago.
Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 1, that “the Saudi emir of the al Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades,” is in the hands of the Lebanese army. Hizballah’s Al Manar TV station added that al-Majid was captured “recently.”
Both statements betrayed an effort to attribute these attacks to Saudi Arabia and/or al Qaeda. Iranian and Hizballah spokesmen generally adopt the same line in the Syria war, where Saudi intelligence is accused of backing al Qaeda and the other Islamist militias fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad as well as working against Iranian and Hizballah involvement in the Syrian conflict.
This hand was also blamed for the Nov. 19 attack by two suicide bombers on the Iranian embassy in Beirut, in which the cultural attaché was killed; and the Dec. 4 assassination of Hizballah’s undercover operations chief Hassan al-Laqis.
This week, the Shiite organization’s spokesmen provided that assassination with a new date and different circumstances to the ones published at the time. They are still baffled in their search to discover how one of the killers was able to penetrate their most secret inner councils.
Abdullah Azzam Brigades spokesmen announced Wednesday that – notwithstanding their leader’s detention – they would continue their strikes in Lebanon so long as Hizballah forces were fighting in Syria and their members remained in Syrian and Lebanese detention.
According to debkafile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources, Al-Majid was detained Monday, Dec. 30, when his car accompanied by bodyguards arrived at the Lebanese army checkpoint in the Yarze quarter of Beirut, site of the Lebanese high command.
The officers and soldiers manning the checkpoint appear to have been forewarned of his arrival and placed him under arrest. What the al Qaeda leader was doing at this core of high Lebanese military commands – or even whether he might have had an appointment there – remains a mystery.
Our counter-terror sources report that he was arrested shortly after returning from Syria where, over the weekend, he met Abu Muhammad al-Golani, head of the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front fighting Bashar Assad.
Their meeting ended with Al Majid swearing an oath of allegiance to the Nusra Front leader and their signing of a cooperation pact. In other words, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch was promised a base and logistical assistance at the Azzam Brigades’ stronghold in the big Palestinian Ain Hilwa camp outside the south Lebanese town of Sidon, not far from the Israeli border.
It is therefore more than likely that Al-Majid’s pact with his Syrian counterpart Al-Golani sealed his fate and led to his arrest.