France asks Lebanon to question 2 suspects in 1983 bombing
BEIRUT (AP) — French authorities have asked Lebanese prosecutors to detain two people suspected of involvement in a 1983 bombing in Beirut that killed dozens of French troops, Lebanese judicial officials said Wednesday.
It is highly unlikely that Lebanese authorities will detain the suspects nearly 40 years after the attacks. Neither has ever been taken into custody.
The request identified the two suspects as Yousef al-Khalil and Sanaa al-Khalil and called on Lebanon’s prosecutor’s office to detain and question them, then inform French authorities of the outcome. It was not immediately clear if the two are related.
On Oct. 23, 1983, suicide car bombers simultaneously blew up a U.S. Marine base and French paratroopers headquarters in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemembers and 58 French troops.
The American and French troops were deployed in Lebanon a year earlier as part of a multinational force following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
A pro-Iranian Shiite group, Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the 1983 attacks, which marked the beginning of the end of Western attempts to stop Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war. Several months later, the peacekeeping force of U.S., French, British and Italian troops left Lebanon.
Islamic Jihad was believed to be linked to Hezbollah, although Hezbollah officials have denied that.
The judicial officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, did not say whether the two are members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah. The request did not say whether the two are still alive, the officials said without giving further details.
In 1997, Lebanese authorities ordered two men investigated for possible links to the suicide bombings of U.S. and French military bases in the first legal action in the case. The two men that police were ordered to investigate at the time were Hassan Ezzedine and Ali Atwi, believed to have been senior security officials of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah in the 1980s. The men were never detained.