BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese authorities have arrested a man suspected of being the leader of an al-Qaida-linked group and taken DNA samples to crosscheck against family members in Saudi Arabia 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.
There were conflicting reports about where the DNA tests would take place.
The Lebanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to brief the media, said samples taken from the suspect have been sent to Saudi Arabia for comparison with samples from al-Majid's relatives. He said results were expected later Thursday.
The Saudi ambassador to Beirut, however, told Lebanon's private LBC TV that the kingdom was trying to bring DNA samples from al-Majid's family to Lebanon for testing. He said the family samples had not been taken yet.
The ambassador, Ali Saeed Asiri, also 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 but that 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 be repatriated to Saudi Arabia, Asiri said in remarks confirmed by the Saudi embassy.
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.
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 and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, and Abdullah al-Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed to this report.