Lebanon releases names of Tripoli suicide bombers
TRIPOLI - The Lebanese army released the names on Sunday of two suicide bombers who killed nine people in second city Tripoli in the latest violence linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
The Saturday attack on a cafe in a Tripoli neighbourhood mainly inhabited by members of the Alawite sect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was claimed by the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda.
Security sources said the bombers were both Lebanese, from a Sunni district of Tripoli known for its sympathy for the rebels fighting to topple the Damascus regime.
"According to the military experts' initial investigations at the scene of the explosion that hit Jabal Mohsen, the two suicide attackers' names are Taha Samir al-Khalil and Bilal Mohammmad al-Maraiyan," an army statement said.
They were both residents of the mainly Sunni Mankubeen district, which lies just 500 metres (yards) from Jabal Mohsen, the army said.
A security source said that Khalil, 20, had been wanted by authorities on suspicion of having links to extremist groups and of taking part in deadly fighting with Jabal Mohsen residents last year.
There have been repeated clashes between residents of the Alawite neighbourhood and those of adjacent Sunni districts.
Khalil's "whereabouts were unknown for the past three weeks," the source said, adding that there were suspicions that he had travelled to the Qalamun mountains, a stronghold of hardline Islamist groups over the border in Syria.
The second bomber was a 26-year-old father of one with no criminal record, the source said.
Jabal Mohsen remained cordoned off by the army on Sunday, as preparations were underway for the afternoon funerals of the nine people killed in the attack.
Lebanese politicians and movements were quick to condemn the bombing, branding it a "terrorist" act and calling for unity.
"This crime will not terrorise the Lebanese or the residents of Tripoli, and it will not weaken the government's resolve to confront terrorism and terrorists," Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in a statement.
The powerful pro-Syrian Shiite Hezbollah movement blamed "takfiri (extremist) terrorists" for carrying out the attack, in a reference to radical Sunni militants.
Former prime minister Saad Hariri, Lebanon's main Sunni official, also condemned the attack.
"This terrorist act is part of a campaign to sow chaos and division, and to destabilise (Tripoli) after the Lebanese army and security forces managed to stop the cycles of violence," Hariri said in a statement.