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Middle east

Militant chief Majid al-Majid dies in Lebanese custody

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-04

The alleged leader of an al Qaeda-linked group that carried out attacks across the Middle East before shifting its focus to Syria's civil war died on Saturday while in custody in Lebanon, the army said.

In a short statement, the Lebanese army said Majid al-Majid “died this morning while undergoing treatment at the central military hospital after his health deteriorated.” It did not elaborate.

Official Lebanese sources, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said al-Majid died after kidney failure. The state-run National News Agency said al-Majid died “after his health conditions deteriorated.”

Al-Majid, a Saudi citizen had been held at a secret location. The Lebanese authorities only confirmed his identity on Friday, following a DNA test.

According to Lebanese newspapers, al-Majid was detained late in December on his way from Beirut to the 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.

Al-Majid was suspected of leading the Abdullah Azzam Brigades - a Sunni militant group with al Qaeda links. The brigades claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut in November that killed 25 people.

The brigades have also claimed responsibility for attacks throughout the region, including the 2010 bombing of a Japanese tanker in the Persian Gulf and several rocket strikes from Lebanon into Israel.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades grew from a relatively small outfit to a larger terror group after al-Majid took over in mid-2012, when the organisation's previous leader, Saleh al-Qarawi, was wounded in Pakistan.

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.

In 2009, Lebanon sentenced al-Majid in absentia to life in prison for belonging to a different extremist group, the al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam.

Al-Majid was wanted in Saudi Arabia, which had hailed his detention.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

Date created : 2014-01-04

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