By Antoine Amrieh for The Daily Star –
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A 22-year-old Lebanese Christian who was one of three terror suspects arrested earlier this week over plotting suicide attacks had been “brainwashed” by the Nusra Front, his neighbors in the northern city of Tripoli said Friday.
Elie Tony al-Warraq was one of three people the Army announced had been arrested in connection to Saturday’s twin suicide blast that targeted a cafe in the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood.
He had become friendly with Shadi Mawlawi, one of the most-wanted Islamist fugitives in Lebanon.
“Elie used to hang out with Mawlawi and a bunch of associates in Qibbeh [Tripoli] and has indulged in drugs and alcohol since then,” one neighbor said. He spoke to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.
“And when Mawlawi moved to Bab al-Tabbaneh, Elie moved with them, too,” the neighbor added.
Many fellow citizens living in the Qibbeh-Majdlaya area of Tripoli, the same neighborhood where Warraq grew up in, said the young man belongs to a Christian family who originally hails from the village of Charbila in the northern Akkar province.
They said Elie had been brainwashed and had probably made a verbal commitment to the Islamist group to convert to Islam ahead of a pledge of allegiance to the Nusra Front.
Elie’s parents refused to speak to the press following their son’s arrest.
On Thursday, the Army said it arrested Warraq, Bassam Houssam al-Naboush and Mohannad Ali Abdel-Kader for plotting a series of terrorist attacks against “Army locations and residential areas.”
It said the three suspects, who had been using fake Syrian and Palestinian IDs, were linked to Shadi Mawlawi and Osama Mansour, two of the most-wanted Islamist fugitives in Lebanon.
The three suspects had pledged allegiance to “terrorist organizations and participated in the fighting in Syria as well as in attacks on the Army,” the Army said.
The statement added that Naboush, Warraq and Abdel-Kader had also participated in the series of deadly clashes over the last four years between the Tripoli neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh.