Middle East

Jihadist militant leader in Lebanon Majid al-Majid dies in custody

A prominent al-Qaeda-linked militant in Lebanon has died in custody in a Beirut hospital, Lebanon's army says.

Majid al-Majid, a Saudi who led the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and was on Saudi Arabia's most-wanted-terrorists list, was arrested recently.

An army general told Associated Press the militant died of kidney failure.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed a double suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in southern Beirut in November that left 23 people dead.

The Iranian cultural attache was among those killed.

'Interrogated'

A Lebanese army statement said Majid al-Majid died in a military hospital in Beirut on Saturday, as he was receiving medical treatment.

Security sources said he had gone into a coma suffering from kidney failure.

He was believed to have required dialysis for the condition.

It was only on Friday that the Lebanese authorities said that DNA tests had confirmed his identity.

Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn earlier confirmed the commander was being held by army intelligence in Beirut and was "being interrogated in secret". He refused to say when and how the arrest took place.

However, a Lebanese security source told the Reuters news agency that he had been captured with another Saudi militant and had been living in the southern city of Sidon.

Lebanese women hold placards of victims of the Iran embassy bombing, claimed by the Brigades
The attack left 23 people dead, including the Iranian cultural attache

Majid al-Majid had led the Abdullah Azzam Brigades since 2012.

Based in both Lebanon and the Arabian Peninsula, the group is named after a Palestinian jihadist ideologue who recruited mujahideen for the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The group has attracted hardline Islamist militants who fought in the Iraqi insurgency and has based itself in the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, near Sidon.

The US designated the group a terrorist organisation in 2012, freezing its assets.

November's Iranian embassy bombing was believed to be its first major attack.

Iran and the Hezbollah militant group are allied with the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Media reports said Majid al-Majid had pledged allegiance to the leader of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate seeking to overthrow President Assad.

After the Iran embassy bombing, a Salafist cleric close to the Abdullah Azzam Brigades warned attacks would continue in Lebanon until Iranian and Hezbollah forces stopped fighting alongside government forces in Syria, and the Sunni group's prisoners were released in Lebanon.

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