Chilling account of Burj al Barajneh bombing released

The site of a twin bombing attack in Burj al-Barajneh

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Harrowing details of how last November’s twin suicide bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the attempted same-day attack in Tripoli were carried out emerged Tuesday as the prosecutors requested the death penalty for 20 suspects in the case. Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda indicted Lebanese nationals Bilal Baqqar, Khalid Zeineddine, Hamza Baqqar, Ibrahim Baqqar, Ibrahim Rayed, Khalid Shaker, Khalid Marzouk, Ali Merheb, Ahmad Merheb, Abdel-Latif Alouli, Zakaria Baqqar, Hassan Amoun, Alaa Ibrahim and Adnan Srour.

Syrian nationals Ibrahim al-Jamal, Abdel-Karim Sheikh Ali, Awwad Darwish, Mustafa Khazam, Sattam Shitewi and Abdel-Hadi Shitewi were also indicted.

The men were charged with planning and conducting the twin suicide bombings in the Beirut southern suburb of Burj al-Barajneh that led to scores of civilian casualties.

Investigators claimed the group was receiving orders from their leader, Abu Waleed al-Souri, a member of Daesh (ISIS) who currently resides in Raqqa.

Abu Ghayda’s 65-page accusatory document provided a detailed account of the terror ring’s operation.

Evidence began to mount against the group when security services were able to apprehend would-be suicide bomber Ibrahim al-Jamal before he was able to blow himself up in Jabal Mohsen on Nov. 12, the same day of the Burj al-Barajneh blasts.

After further investigation, authorities were able to unravel the extensive network that recruited him. They ultimately discovered that the very same group was behind the Burj al-Barajneh bombings, which killed 47 civilians and injured more than 200.

Following numerous operations and extensive intelligence and fieldwork, the culprits were tracked down and their affiliations discovered. All had pledged allegiance to Abul-Baraa, a known Daesh security official.

The investigation revealed the primary organizer of both the Burj al-Barajneh bombing and the abortive Tripoli attack was Sattam Shitewi, believed to be in Arsal in northeast Lebanon. He received support from Sheikh Ali, Darwish, Khazam, Bilal Baqqar, Hamza Baqqar, Zakaria Baqqar, Ibrahim al-Jamal, Zeineddine and nearly a score of other operatives who provided logistical support.

According to the report, in a previous court hearing, Darwish had detailed the events that culminated in the Burj al-Barajneh blasts. He said he had known Sheikh Ali since they were kids. The latter had recently arrived in Lebanon and the pair lived in the Baalbaki neighborhood in Burj al-Barajneh. A couple of days later their friend Khazam joined them.

Their discussions largely revolved around Daesh and the need to support the organization. Sheikh Ali revealed that the purpose of his visit to Lebanon was to conduct suicide operations around Beirut’s southern suburbs where Hezbollah enjoys wide support, and singled out the Rasoul al-Aazam Hospital as a potential target, as it would incur the greatest number of civilian casualties. He said he wanted to attack the Hezbollah operatives who were at the hospital, in addition to punishing their Shiite supporters.

Darwish and Ahmad Jarf subsequently rented an apartment in the affluent east Beirut area of Ashrafieh. During Ashura, a 10-day mourning period observed by adherents of Shiite Islam, Jarf asked Darwish to make his way to the Msharrafieh Bridge to rendezvous with Imad, a suicide bomber, and escort him to the apartment.

Approximately 10 days later, Walid, another prospective suicide bomber, arrived from Tripoli, escorted by Sheikh Ali, from the Kesrouan town of Adma.

A few days later, Sheikh Ali received $5,000 at Dora, north of Beirut, before making his way to the Sayyad area, where he received two bags laden with arms and ammunition and five explosive vests. Both parcels had been sent by Daesh.

Upon his arrest, Sheikh Ali confessed that he was a Daesh operative and had been recruited by his friend Imad Ghayyath, with whom he took lessons in one of Raqqa’s mosques. It was there too that he met Abu Walid, who chose him to conduct operations in Beirut.

Abu Walid allegedly promised Sheikh Ali that he would be joined by five suicide bombers and gave him $1,500.

The day of the bombing, Awad Darwish, Sheikh Ali and Walid made their way to the Rihab area in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Walid purchased a motorbike.

Darwish divulged that they agreed that Walid and Imad would wear explosive belts; two other belts would be tied together and placed on the motorbike, rigged to detonate remotely.

The plan was to detonate these belts first, and when locals gathered at the site, for Walid to position himself among the crowd and activate his own suicide vest. Imad was to wait at the nearby Rasoul al-Aazam Hospital for the wounded to arrive, then he in turn would detonate his vest.

At 5 p.m. on Nov. 12, the suicide bombers executed their operation. Walid rode the bike while Imad followed him on foot. Darwish and Sheikh Ali made their way to the nearby apartment they had rented.

Ten minutes later, a blast echoed. “That’s the bag exploding,” said Sheikh Ali.

Five minutes later another blast rang out. “That’s Walid.”

They waited for Imad, for the third blast, but it never came.

Walid had been killed in the initial explosion. Imad had carried out the second bombing, and it had been him they heard.

Abu Ghayda referred the file, along with another 20 suspects, to the Military Tribunal.

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