Who is Fatah Al-Islam in Lebanon?

The previously little known Fatah Al-Islam, a militant group battling the Lebanese army, is different from all other groups based in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Who is Fatah Al-Islam in Lebanon?

The previously little known Fatah Al-Islam, a militant group battling the Lebanese army, is different from all other groups based in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

"Unlike Palestinian groups it comprises a throng of wanted Syrian, Lebanese and people from the Gulf," a well-kept Palestinian figure in Lebanon told IslamOnline.net, requesting anonymity.

Fatah al-Islam announced its creation last November after breaking away from Fatah Al-Intifada, a splinter group of the mainstream Fatah movement.

In its foundation statement, it introduced itself as an Islamic group seeking to liberate Palestine and restore Muslim sanctities captured by Israel.

Fatah al-Islam said it would fight Israelis and their supporters.

Experts believe the group is ideologically but not operationally linked to Al-Qaeda and is played by Lebanese and Arab parties to achieve political gains.

Its leader Shaker Abssi, a Palestinian born in Areha in 1955, is a former colonel pilot.

He joined Fatah Al-Intifada in Libya after its defection from the umbrella Fatah movement in 1983.

He then moved to Damascus where he became close to Fatah Al-Intifada's no. 2 Abu Khaled Al-Omla.

Syrian authorities arrested Abssi in 2000 and sentenced him to three years in prison on charges of smuggling weapons, ammunition to Jordan and vice versa.

No sooner had he been released than he went to Iraq following the US-led invasion.

In Iraq, Abssi fought along with groups loyal to Al-Qaeda and made friends with a number of Al-Qaeda leaders there.

He later returned to Syria where he once again hocked up with Omla who helped him relocate to Lebanon and set himself up in the headquarters of Fatah Al-Intifada in the village of Helwa, the Western Beqaa.


Abssi went to Lebanon in 2005 with a group of youths he met in Iraq and stayed there around a year before getting into trouble with the Lebanese army in May 2006.

An armed clash with Lebanese soldiers and Abssi's small group in Western Beqaa led to the killing of one young Syrian wanted by Damascus for fighting in Iraq.

Syrian intelligence services smelled a rat and summoned Omla to ask him about the nature of this small group led by Abssi.

The investigation unmasked the close coordination between Omla and Abssi which were kept from the pro-Damascus Secretary General of Fatah Al-Intifada, Abu Moussa, and consequently the Syrian authorities.

Omla then ordered Abssi to leave the Western Beqaa, which is close to the borders with Syria, and head for refugee camps in northern Lebanon.

In November 2006, the security committee in Al-Badawi refugee camp handed over two of Abssi's small group to the Lebanese military intelligence.

Palestinian groups handle security inside the 12 refugees camps across Lebanon, where the country's over-stretched army of 40,000 may not enter under a 1969 Arab accord.

An infuriated Abssi immediately decided to break up with Fatah Al-Intifada and establish his own Fatah Al-Islam group.

Al-Qaeda Ideology

The new splinter group seized the locations of Fatah Al-Intifada in Nahr Al-Bared camp.

It attracted Lebanese and people from the Gulf who subscribe to Al-Qaeda ideologies.

The Palestinian sources said Fatah Al-Islam is morally and financially supported by Jihadist groups in Lebanon.

Experts agree that the group has no organizational link to Al-Qaeda but share its takfiri (calling others unbelievers) and violent mindset.

The group's members believe, for instance, that parliamentary or government work is unlawful under Islam.

They rapped the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas for signing the Makkah agreement with Fatah last February, accusing Hamas of making concessions on Palestinian rights.

The group further sent some of its fighters to Iraq to help establish the self-declared "Islamic Republic of Iraq."

Abssi has denied any organizational links to Al-Qaeda but recognized that both groups share the aim of "fighting infidels".

Abssi was sentenced to death in Jordan for killing a US diplomat in 2002.

The slain leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, received a similar sentence for the same crime.


Experts believe that Fatah Al-Islam is nonetheless penetrated by Lebanese and Arab parties that use it as a front to achieve political gains.

The Palestinian politician, who requested anonymity, said the Future movement of MP Saad Al-Hariri had tried in vain to buy the loyalty of the group in its power struggle with Shiite Hizbullah.

But the director of the Lebanese Center for Information, Ahmed Al-Ayoubi, believes that a major section of Fatah Al-Islam is directed by the Syrian regime.

The Syrian strategy to face UN Security Council Resolution 1701 is based either on provoking a Hizbullah-UNIFIL conflict, which is an unlikely scenario, or pitting an armed group against UNIFIEL troops or the Lebanese army, he told IOL.

Ayoubi insists that the group picked Nahr Al-Bared camp as a stronghold because the coastal camp, according to him, is a haven for pro-Syria groups.

Lebanese authorities have accused Fatah al-Islam of working for the Syrian intelligence services.

It said four Syrian members of Fatah Al-Islam confessed to bombing two buses in February in a Christian area near Beirut.

The group had denied any involvement in the bombings and accused the government of framing it to justify a crackdown on Palestinian camps.

Syria, which withdrew its troops from Lebanon in 2005 after an outcry over the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, has denied any links with Fatah Al-Islam.


Last Mod: 23 Mayıs 2007, 10:16
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