2 Palestinian suspects arrested in bombing targeting UN mission

LEBANESE AUTHORITIES HAVE arrested two Palestinians in connection with a roadside bombing that targeted UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon last month, a security official said Thursday.The suspects, Salem Kayed and Ahmed Mohammad, were arrested Wednesday near the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein Al Hilweh in southern Lebanon after they were lured out of the camp by security agents.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, said the two are former members of Asbat Al Ansar – an extremist Palestinian group based at Ein Al Hilweh – who may have recently joined the Fateh Islam group fighting Lebanese troops in another Palestinian camp in northern Lebanon.

He said they confessed to their involvement in the July 16 roadside bombing of a UN jeep in the southern village of Qassimiyeh that caused damage but no casualties.

The UN force is tasked with implementing a UN Security Council resolution that ended last summer’s war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas. The official said a third suspect, Bilal Kayed, was still at large, but did not provide further details.

No group has claimed responsibility for the Qassimiyeh attack or a June 24 blast also targeting the UN force that killed six Spanish peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

But in a July videotape, Al Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman Zawahri, blessed the first attack, fuelling speculation that it was carried out by Al Qaeda-linked armed men.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese soldier was killed by a Fateh Islam sniper overnight, said a second security official, also speaking on condition of anonymity. The shooting raised the number of soldiers who have died since fighting erupted to 142.

Fateh Islam fighters have been engaged with Lebanese troops at the Nahr Bared Camp in northern Lebanon since May 20.

The group has also been blamed for past attacks inside Lebanon, including the bombing of two buses near Beirut in February that killed three people and wounded 20.

Meanwhile, cluster bombs killed one de-mining specialist and wounded three on Thursday in continuing efforts to clear the unexploded munitions dropped by Israel on south Lebanon in its war with Hizbollah last year.

The casualties were inflicted in two accidents, one in the village of Kfar Rumman, in the Nabatiyah region where the British Mine Advisory Group is working.

MAG official Andy Gleeson told AFP that one man was killed and two seriously wounded in the blast. All three were Lebanese.

A Swedish man, working to clear munitions in Qaaqaiyat Jisr village, in the same region, was wounded in similar circumstances, Lebanese police said.

Nabatiyah, some 15 kilometres north of the Israeli frontier, is one of the most heavily munitions-polluted districts in Lebanon. An estimated one million cluster bombs dropped by Israel failed to explode during its 34-day war with the Shiite Hizbollah group.

The United Nations anti-mines centre, which coordinates clearance work, says 126,000 cluster bombs have been cleared in the past year. Around 30 people have been killed and 180 wounded by them since the end of the war last August.

The centre has several times criticised lack of cooperation from Israel, which refuses to provide maps of target areas for the cluster bombs or the numbers dropped, something which considerably slows down the clearance work.

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