BEIRUT – Lebanese authorities have arrested a man suspected of being the leader of an al-Qaida-linked group and sent DNA samples to Saudi Arabia to crosscheck against family members to confirm his identity, officials said Thursday.
A Lebanese security official close to the investigation said the man, who was arrested Monday, is believed to be Majid al-Majid, a Saudi citizen and the commander of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. The Sunni extremist group has claimed responsibility for several bombings, most recently the attack on the Iranian Embassy in Beirut that killed at least 23 people.
DNA samples taken from the suspect have been sent to Saudi Arabia for comparison with samples from al-Majid's relatives, the official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to brief the media. He said results were expected later Thursday.
The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon was quoted in the kingdom's state-owned Al-Riyadh newspaper on Thursday as saying Lebanese authorities had informed him that they had arrested Majid al-Majid.
The ambassador, Ali Saeed Asiri, said Saudi officials are awaiting the DNA results to be 100 percent sure of the suspect's identity. If the tests confirm the man in custody is indeed al-Majid, then the kingdom would like him to repatriated to Saudi Arabia, Asiri said.
The ambassador also said that al-Majid's health was believed to be poor and that is why confirming his identity has taken so long. He did not elaborate.
The Saudi Embassy in Lebanon confirmed the remarks to Al-Riyadh.
Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said in a statement Thursday that al-Majid is among the kingdom's 85 most wanted al-Qaida suspects.
Saudi security officials told The Associated Press that al-Majid is number 70 on the list. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
Associated Press writers Yasmine Saker in Beirut, and Abdullah al-Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed to this report.