'Al Qaida leader' dies in Lebanon
The leader of an al Qaida-linked group that has conducted attacks across the Middle East before shifting its focus to Syria's civil war has died in custody in Lebanon.
An army general, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the detainee, Majid al-Majid, died after suffering kidney failure.
Al-Majid, a Saudi citizen, was detained in Lebanon late last month and had been held at a secret location.
He was the purported commander of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and one of the 85 most-wanted individuals in his native Saudi Arabia.
The US State Department designated the group a foreign terrorist organisation in 2012, freezing any assets it holds in the United States and banning Americans from doing business with the group.
The brigades have claimed responsibility for attacks throughout the region, including the 2010 bombing of a Japanese oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and several rocket strikes from Lebanon into Israel.
The most recent attack claimed by the group was the double suicide bombing in November outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed at least 23 people and wounded dozens.
Reports first surfaced about his arrest in Lebanon early this week. Security officials eventually confirmed that they had a suspect in custody, but said they were not certain of his identity.
Yesterday, the Lebanese confirmed his identity following a DNA test.
Al-Majid was believed to have serious kidney problems that require dialysis. He was an important figure, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades grew from a relatively small outfit to a larger terror group since he took over in mid-2012, after the organisation's previous leader, Saleh al-Qarawi, was gravely wounded in Pakistan.
According to Lebanese newspapers, al-Majid was detained during the last week of December while on his way from Beirut to the eastern Bekaa Valley that borders Syria. The reports said that he was captured while in an ambulance after he had undergone dialysis at a hospital in Beirut.
In the spring of 2013, after the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group announced that it was fighting alongside Syrian president Bashar Assad's troops against the Syrian rebels, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades began to target Hezbollah as well - and by extension, their Iranian patrons.
Yesterday, families of those killed in the Iranian embassy bombing demanded that al-Majid, who had not been charged over the attack, be tried in Lebanon and not be sent to his homeland.