x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Lebanon suicide bomber was a wanted Saudi citizen: source

The man, identified as 20-year-old Abdul Rahman Nasser Al Shenifi, detonated his explosives when Lebanese security forces stormed his hotel room at the Duroy Hotel on Wednesday evening, killing himself and wounding 11 others.

RIYADH // A suicide bomber who blew himself when police raided his hotel room in Beirut was a Saudi citizen wanted by authorities in the kingdom, a source in Riyadh said on Thursday.

“His name is Abdul Rahman Nasser Al Shenifi, 20, and he was wanted by the interior ministry,” said the source, who is close to security authorities.

But the bomber did not figure on the kingdom’s list of most-wanted militants, the source added.

The man detonated his explosives when Lebanese security forces stormed his hotel room at the Duroy Hotel on Wednesday evening, killing himself and wounding 11 others.

An accomplice who survived the blast was also a Saudi, according to Lebanese authorities.

A security and a judicial official said a preliminary probe showed the two attackers entered Lebanon with Saudi passports on June 11, and had paid for bookings in two other hotels besides the Duroy.

Security forces are pursuing other suspects and on Thursday, special forces raided at least one hotel in Beirut.

The Duroy Hotel is located near the Saudi Embassy in Raouche district, a high-end neighbourhood of apartment towers and upscale hotels perched on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

The Saudi embassy on Thursday condemned the blast, calling it a “terror act”.

The Lebanese Red Cross said 11 other people were wounded in the hotel explosion.

It was the third suicide bombing in Lebanon in less than a week and sparked fears of renewed violence in a country that has been deeply affected by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a checkpoint outside a cafe just after midnight in a primarily Shiite neighborhood where the militant Hizbollah group has a strong presence. The bombing killed one person and wounded 20.

An Al Qaeda-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has warned that such attacks will continue as long as Hizbollah fights in Syria’s civil war alongside the president Bashar Al Assad’s troops.

Syria’s civil war has spilled into neighbouring Lebanon on numerous occasions and inflamed sectarian tensions. A series of car bombs have struck Shiite areas across Lebanon, killing dozens of people.

Regional tensions are also mounting over the events in Iraq, where Sunni insurgents – including the Al Qaeda breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- have seized much of the country’s north as armed forces loyal to the Shiite-led government have melted away.

The string of security incidents over the past week has rattled Lebanon, and Beirut in particular, after what had been a calm and stable stretch of several months.

Another bombing in eastern Lebanon last week killed a police officer and wounded several others.

The bombings, coupled with the detention last Friday in Beirut of people accused of being part of alleged Sunni extremist sleeper cells, has given rise to concerns that Lebanon could see a new wave of violence linked to the Syrian conflict.

* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press