DNA tests reveal that the two suicide bombers behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut resided in South Lebanon and were followers of Salafi cleric Ahmad al-Assir.
It was a sluggish weekend in Saida and its environs; the double suicide bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut resulted in a series of shocks for the area. On Friday night, November 22, the army command announced DNA test results on the remains of one of the bombers: Mouin Abou Dahr, 21, from Saida. Before the initial shock was absorbed, the army dealt a second blow: DNA from the second bomber belonged to Adnan Mohammed, 21, a Palestinian resident of Bisariyeh in Zahrani.
By Saturday morning, November 23, army intelligence learned more about the photo of the second bombing suspect. He looked similar to a Palestinian called Adnan Mohammed, who they had arrested in August 2012 in an incident of a sectarian nature in Bisariyeh, where he lived with his family. Adnan’s father was summoned for interrogation, stating that his son had left his home at the beginning of the month. The report also noted that Adnan spoke to his family through Skype from Syria, without mentioning further details.
Chasing Assir Followers
Army intelligence gave the green light to resume the campaign of arrests against supporters of Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir. On Saturday, they detained Mohieddine B. after receiving information that he participated in the Abra battles and soon disappeared, fleeing to Jordan. Hilal A., another suspect, was also arrested.
An army unit raided the home of Mahmoud Gh. in Abra, owner of the mechanic shop where suicide bomber Adnan Mohammed worked. He disappeared the moment Adnan was arrested.
A few hours after the Iran embassy bombing, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) removed security checkpoints at the entrance of the commercial market in Saida, prohibiting the entry of all cars. Two days later, the measures were reimposed on the city. After discovering the identity of suicide bomber Abou Dahr, the army was put on alert in the city and began patrolling the streets.
Security measures at army barracks entrances were tightened and cement blocks were placed outside to deter car bombs. At the same time, a security source revealed that new reports began to surface related to threats against some local figures and security officials. Security sources advised sheikh of Imam of al-Quds Mosque, Maher Hammoud, to take security precautions.
Mouin Abou Dahr: Just Like His Sheikh
Until Sunday night, the Abou Dahr family refused to meet any strangers in their home in the Saida neighborhood of al-Bustan al-Kabir. An army patrol calmed the neighborhood’s fears of retaliation against the family. The family, known to be politically moderate, issued a statement expressing “the deepest pain that one of our own is accused of the heinous and awful crime in Bir Hassan. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims, pray for the injured to be healed, and take refuge in God from this evil.”
Although the family washed its hands of Mouin, it did not take a similar position when he joined the fighting in Abra against the army in June 2013. A relative, Fadi Abou Dahr, also participated in the battle and was detained by the army and taken to Rihaniyya prison.
A few years ago, Mouin began to visit Assir’s Bilal bin Rabah mosque. He carried a gun and sometimes stood guard at the entrance along the mosque’s security perimeter. As the Abra battle was about to end, he fled to an unknown location. News came out that he had left to Sweden to join his brothers and mother, then to Denmark, and then to Kuwait. However, it was later found out that he went to Syria to fight against the Syrian army.
Some Saida residents do not believe that Mouin’s support of Assir could justify his committing this terrorist act. They indicate that this type of death is alien to Saida, which resisted the French and Israeli occupations. “The suicide bomber, or even the martyrdom fighter, is an alien concept to Saida,” a resident of the city told Al-Akhbar. A former member of the resistance said that no fighter from Saida, “even at the height of faith in the resistance, never went to meet death on his own.”
Tuffahta, the birthplace of Mouin’s mother Kawthar Ammouri, also disowned him. The town is full of posters of martyrs from leftist parties, Palestinian factions, Hezbollah, and Amal. Its residents maintained that he hasn’t visited since he was little. But didn’t his mother’s Shiism impact his upbringing? “This does not mean he cannot be sectarian or hateful,” a town resident replied. “Sheikh Assir’s mother is also Shia.”
Abou Dahr family elders asked the security forces about the remains of Mouin. They were told that the military prosecution is keeping the remains of both bombers and has not decided to deliver them to their families yet. The bodies are being kept in a hospital in Beirut. However Adnan Mohammed’s family did not request his remains.
Adnan Mohammed: Looking for Nidal
Bisariye gradually began absorbing the shock. Since the 1950s, the town has hosted many Palestinian refugees, who even established their own neighborhood. Adnan’s family hails from Akka, Palestine and had lived in Tal al-Zaatar, before fleeing to Bisariye in 1976.
His mother, Fatima Kayed, is also from Akka. Her father left Bisariye during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and settled in Yarmouk camp near Damascus before the current Syrian crisis forced him to return to the Lebanese town. The mother disowned her son and his uncle refused to collect his remains. The security forces, the municipalities, Hezbollah, and Amal are cooperating to protect the family from any reaction.
Some neighbors said that Adnan was “simple-minded” and doubted he was fully aware of what he was doing. They mentioned that he always skipped work in the mechanic’s garage where he worked in the industrial zone in Saida. Most comments skipped over Adnan to mention his brother Ali, 24, who frequented Bilal bin Rabah Mosque to listen to Assir, before his father forced him to stop.
Ali broke off from Assir, but his neighbor and close friend 24-year-old Nidal M., who is also Palestinian, did not. “Look for Nidal, who disappeared last May,” an informed source told Al-Akhbar. Nidal’s father was also interrogated at army intelligence where he admitted that he had spoken to his son several times after he left to fight in Syria. Security services believe that he was among those whom Assir claimed to have sent to fight with the opposition in Qusayr.
A few months ago, Nidal, accompanied by Adnan, attacked his sister’s home. She had eloped with their Shia neighbor and was pregnant. At the time, he said he based his actions on a sermon given by Assir, where the sheikh said he was allowed to slaughter his sister for marrying an infidel.
To manage the repercussions of the incident, a delegation from town visited Assir, who denied issuing such a fatwa. But the reconciliation between the two families did not please Nidal, who decided to leave “this Shia environment to live in Saida.”
Preliminary investigations suggest that Nidal could have taken Adnan with him to Syria since they both disappeared around the same time. A security source revealed that another young friend of Adnan and Nidal, Marwan H., also disappeared around the same time. From the town of Yarin on the southern Lebanese border, Marwan lived in Bisariye with his family for years, much like hundreds of southern residents who were displaced by the 1978 Israeli invasion.
Marwan’s family has not reported their son’s disappearance until now, despite the passing of seven months.
Saida Condemns, but Where Are Hariri and Siniora?
Last Thursday, November 21, Lebanese MP Bahia Hariri held a meeting with the members of the Consultative Gathering in Majdelyoun. The meeting, attended by former Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, began with a moment of silence for “the martyrs of the two suicide bombings targeting the Iranian embassy and the total rejection of such operations, which target Lebanese sovereignty.”
As usual, in the meeting’s final recommendations, Hariri did not forget to mention the Abra detainees: “The participants were also informed about the steps taken by judicial authorities to transfer them to prisons in Aley, Jezzine, and Roumieh. This file is in the hands of the military court, and we await the preliminary indictment, which should not take long.”
The next day, when Mouin’s identity was uncovered, few spoke in Saida of those who had condemned the suicide bombings. The city did not hear the comments of its two MPs, Siniora and Hariri, or about the involvement of one of the city’s residents.
The leadership of the Future Movement visited the offices of al-Jamaa al-Islamiya where they declared that Mouin “only represents himself. He is an individual who does not represent the temper of his family or the moderate and conservative Saida.” They hoped that “reactions to the incident do not spill into Saida.”
Head of Saida municipality Mohammed al-Saoudi commented on the involvement of Mouin: “Saida and everyone in it condemn this act. If it turned out that one of the suicide bombers is from the city, it does not mean it represents its position. He committed suicide, not an act of martyrdom. Those who commit suicide will go to hell.”
In terms of the city’s religious leaders, only the imam of al-Quds Mosque, Sheikh Maher Hammoud, considered what Abou Dahr did “to be a virus infecting the city’s residents, and the city urgently needs vaccination.” As for Mouin’s link to Assir, Hammoud maintained that the sheikh’s supporters are still benefitting from political cover.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.