Killing of Fatah al-Islam leader deals severe blow to aspiring al-Qaeda proxy in Lebanon

[Joseph Faddoul/Al-Shorfa] Abdel-Rahman Awad was killed in an ambush in Chtoura.

[Joseph Faddoul/Al-Shorfa] Abdel-Rahman Awad was killed in an ambush in Chtoura.

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The success of the Lebanese Army Intelligence in killing Fatah al-Islam leader Abdel-Rahman Awad indicates that this group, years after it was believed to be preparing to become al-Qaeda's representative in Lebanon and Syria, is now just a marginal organisation struggling to survive.

Awad and his deputy, Abu Bakr Ghazi Mubarak, were killed in an army ambush in the Bekaa town of Chtoura on August 14th. Media reports said they were on their way to Iraq via Syria to meet with the leadership of al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq. Their mission was to secure aid for Fatah al-Islam militants based in Lebanon, specifically in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, the capital of the South Lebanon governorate.

Lebanese Army Intelligence reportedly knew in advance that Awad was planning a move from Ain al-Hilweh to Iraq. He had dispatched one of his sons to scout a clandestine passage to Iraq through Syria.

With Awad's killing, Fatah al-Islam lost their second emir in less than three years. In 2008, the group claimed its founder Shaker al-Abssi, was either killed or captured by Syrian security forces after he fled Lebanon. Al-Abssi led violent confrontations against Lebanese Security Forces in the north during the summer of 2007. The confrontations culminated in a fierce battle that killed hundreds of people and completely destroyed the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp. The refugee camp was the stronghold of this Islamist organisation, an offshoot of the Palestinian group Fatah al-Intifada, which in turn split off from the Fatah movement in the 1980s.

Fatah al-Islam surfaced in Lebanon after the war in Iraq began. Its sudden appearance raised speculation and allegations about its role and the entities that it served. Its establishment came amidst a wave of assassinations that targeted Lebanese politicians and journalists opposed to Syrian policy in Lebanon.

Despite these speculations about the alleged relationship between some leaders of Fatah al-Islam and Syria -- many of the members of this Islamist organisation operate from Syrian territory -- Syria was quick to take a tougher stance against the activities of this group following the Nahr al-Bared clashes, breaking up the organisation’s cells within its territory and detaining or killing its members.

Although the dismantling of Fatah al-Islam cells in Syria was swift and there were no bloody confrontations akin to what transpired in Lebanon, the Nahr al-Bared clashes showed that this group has significant military capability that can pose a serious security threat if allowed to continue to recruit more elements and train them in a fortified camp outside the authority of the Lebanese Government.

Fatah al-Islam fighters demonstrated their ability to fight in the alleyways of the heavily fortified Nahr al-Bared camp as well as a capacity to confront elite soldiers in the Lebanese army. The Lebanese army fought fiercely but suffered heavy losses as it did not have air cover allowing for destruction of targets in the camp, which was originally designed to withstand raids by Israeli warplanes.

Ultimately, the Lebanese army succeeded in entering Nahr al-Bared camp and wiping out the main body of Fatah al-Islam. It likewise succeeded in dismantling most cells associated with the group in majority Sunni areas of northern Lebanon, especially its capital, Tripoli.

Since late 2007 and early 2008, Lebanese media reports revealed many details about Fatah al-Islam which were obtained through interrogation of detainees suspected of links to the group. The detainees were caught during raids, especially in the north.

Perhaps the most important details highlighted the role of Arab-Islamist elements that were flowing to Lebanon—especially to the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp—where they underwent preparations to take part in the "jihad" against Americans in Iraq.

Many of these elements—including dozens of Saudis—entered Lebanese territory as a transit point before travelling to Iraq through Syrian territory.

But as the flow of these elements through Lebanon was occurring, the Americans succeeded in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, in a raid targeting his hideout in June 2006. This coincided with the beginning of the collapse of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the start of Syria's crackdown on "jihadists" crossing its territory into Iraq.

All of this appears to have contributed to compelling these "jihadists", who had sought to travel to from Lebanon to Iraq, to remain on Lebanese soil.

Whether or not there was truth to reports in Lebanese newspapers after the battles of Nahr el-Bared that Fatah al-Islam was seeking to declare an "Islamic emirate" linked to al-Qaeda in northern Lebanon in 2007, Lebanon’s military victory destroyed any such plans and dismantled the organisation's infrastructure.

Events that followed the end of fighting in Nahr al-Bared proved that some Fatah al-Islam cells were not completely eliminated. These cells succeeded in killing Lebanese soldiers when they blew up two buses travelling in the al-Bahsas and Tripoli in northern Lebanon in 2008.

Other cells attempted to carry out a bomb attack targeting the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, in southern Lebanon.

However, investigations into these bombings and attempted bombings showed that the organisation was confined within the al-Tawari neighbourhood in the Ain al-Hilweh camp ever since Abdul Rahman Awad succeeded al-Abssi. Currently, Fatah al-Islam is believed to have only dozens of individuals active in certain Ain al-Hilweh neighbourhoods along with a number of Arab Islamists—including Saudis, such as alleged al-Qaeda member Obeid al-Qafil—who sought refuge in the camp to evade security officials.

According to media reports, Awad’s assistant, Osama al-Shihabi, succeeded the dead emir as head of Fatah al-Islam, becoming the group’s third "emir" since 2007. If so, al-Shihabi is expected to "avenge" the killing of his predecessor Awad.

But al-Shihabi knows without a doubt that he inherited an organisation in danger of extinction, after the Lebanese army and Palestinian organisations—especially Fatah—succeeded in cutting off any real connection between Fatah al-Islam and the population outside the Ain al-Hilweh camp.

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    بديع المسلم

    2010-10-18

    I do not think that al-Qaeda represents Islam or Muslims, because it is based on slaughter and bloodshed. Islam has prohibited these acts and considered them crimes against humanity and against defenseless civilians. Al-Qaeda does not represent Islam and has nothing to do with it, because it is a terrorist organization that kills Muslim men, women, children and scholars. All the heavenly religions reject this, especially Islam, which is the religion of peace, love and tolerance. Islam prohibits killing even the smallest creatures, let alone Muslim or non-Muslim people. God is the One who will reckon all people on the Day of Judgment for all their deeds in this world. Al-Qaeda has no right to reckon the Muslims for their deeds; rather, it must first reckon and punish its elements and itself for its terrorist acts, which include murder, theft, raping, etc. However, they believe that they are free to judge others and not be held accountable. May God curse al-Qaeda and its terrorist elements and doom them to hell.

  • جهاد

    2010-9-30

    Dear brothers, Lebanon is free and all the Muslim countries are free. This is really strange, because we fight the free people and strand by the slaves.

  • قادر

    2010-9-28

    This is the end of those who falsely claim that they represent Islam and the tolerant religion that forbade oppression and the killing of the innocents. To hell

  • عبادي

    2010-9-24

    Al-Qaeda has finally gone bankrupt, and it no longer finds any support. Their lies are now obvious to everyone, and all the bright slogans of Jihad have fallen into the quagmire of criminality against their poor victims. Thus, today we see that the theorists and leaders of al-Qaeda, who claim to be clerics, have gone bankrupt and can no longer find a way to convince people to join their dirty organization. They are now releasing new calls in new ways, like calling for terrorists to carry out suicide attacks; claiming that such operations will make God happy with them and will quickly lead them to heaven. They are mendacious, but they can only continue lying in order to entrap anyone in the nets of terrorism; because al-Qaeda has collapsed and is about to be totally destroyed, with all its leaders and criminal members.

  • عادل كمال

    2010-9-22

    The acts of Al-Qaeda are nothing when compared to the crimes of the Americans and the Jews. Where are the Arabs who call for the elimination of Al-Qaeda? Indeed, everyone seeks to achieve his own interests only.

  • كمال صباح

    2010-9-18

    Al-Qaeda is passing through the most difficult period since its inception, as a lot of members belonging to this organization gave up on it, causing much weakness and confusion. The repentance of many members of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and their abandoning of al-Qaeda is something positive and joyful, because they felt remorse and realized the truth of the matter; they realized that the truth is not on the side of that terrorist organization. Such people who abandoned al-Qaeda could be useful, because they are knowledgeable of the reality of that organization and how it moves into these countries. Interrogating them and getting useful information from them would put al-Qaeda in big trouble, because the terrorist cells will be vulnerable to raids and arrests, and therefore will cause a state of anarchy in the organization, which will make it lose its balance and facilitate the arrest of criminal elements by the security forces. I believe that the clergy’s role and the media intellectual war waged by the Arab states and the global media on al-Qaeda have a great effect on the return of such people to the path of truth and their repentance over supporting al-Qaeda or working with it, because al-Qaeda today is suffering from considerable isolation at the global level and has been targeted by everyone, because the whole world knows its seriousness. It must be eradicated for good. The surrender of those belonging al-Qaeda to authorities and declaring their repentance is the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda and its remnants in the Arab lands or in any part of the globe.

  • مواطن مصرى

    2010-9-17

    May God help you to save the world from the infidels.

  • 2010-9-13

    Perhaps the recent assassinations in Lebanon were carried out by al-Qaeda and its terrorist elements, because they wanted to tear apart the Lebanese unity and bring back divisions. After that, accusations were directed at Syria and others, and this is because of the inaction and giving an opportunity to al-Qaeda to exist on Lebanese territory. But now, after the Lebanese people and security forces have felt the risk, and because we do not want the al-Qaeda terrorist organization in Lebanon, the government must eliminate these trends, starting with the leaders of this organization. Their death means that the organization has collapsed since its inception, and we want the security forces and the government to continue targeting any leader who comes after this criminal who was killed in Lebanon. That is because he was certainly planning to destroy the country, and to ignite sectarian strife, civil war, guerrilla warfare and assassinations here and there, in addition to using booby-trapped and explosive devices. God save us from his evil and takfiri ideas.

  • احمد

    2010-9-13

    Al-Qaeda in Lebanon, in my opinion, doesn't pose a considerable extent of risk, and it is not easy to convince the aware and educated Lebanese youth to engage in these terrorist organizations. Despite that, I support the step taken by the government to save the country and the lives of the Lebanese from the risk of the presence of elements of terrorism in the country and its attempt to turn Lebanon into another Iraq, Yemen or Afghanistan. These criminals want to ravage the earth, wherever they are found, and wherever bloodshed and killing of innocent people and assassinations are found. The government should exploit the death of al-Qaeda's leader in Lebanon and work to reach all the cells that he may have recruited. The government should provide care and pay more attention to the young people, and it should continue to increase their awareness and encourage them not to give any opportunity to terrorists or extremists to draw them into this wrong way.

  • حسن

    2010-9-12

    The existence of al-Qaeda in Lebanon means that the latter is targeted like any other country. In fact, Lebanon was suffering from a civil war, and its society is a mixture of different religions, nationalities and doctrines. That's why terrorists who fail in other countries will try to destabilize the situation, sow dissension and reignite the civil war again. The last assassinations that targeted politicians from different parties in Lebanon could have been conducted by al-Qaeda. However, the security forces are doing their best to prevent terrorists from taking control over Lebanon and igniting the situation after the stability it enjoyed. Everybody has started to tighten the noose on the al-Qaeda terrorists, and the campaigns conducted by all the security forces in many countries of the world against this malicious terrorist organization are the right solution to weaken its abilities, especially those operations targeting its leaders. Lebanon is one of these countries fighting terrorism and al-Qaeda. The news announcing the death of one of al-Qaeda leaders was welcomed by all the Lebanese, because everybody wants to eradicate this organization. The assassination of al-Qaeda leaders in Lebanon means the continuity of stability and security in the country, and their presence raises many unwanted problems, something no Lebanese wishes for his country.

  • العربية

    2010-9-12

    This is the end of each person who destroys the Islamic religion by bearing a grudge against the world.

  • فالح

    2010-9-12

    Osama bin Laden is a filthy criminal who played a game and wanted the whole world to believe it. He established the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, al-Qaeda. He began to spread his ideologies in many countries through the exploitation of religion, which hadn't happened before. He is not only a criminal but also a faithless person who manipulated religion and disrespected the Quran. He interpreted verses of the Quran incorrectly to mislead as many Muslims as possible, especially those who don't have enough religious training. Osama bin Laden exploited religion and deliberately worked on distorting the image of Islam, and intentionally murdered innocent people, and broadcast it on the internet. And I think that all this was well calculated. But what Osama bin Laden and his network do, has no support from religion, because the culture of slaughtering, killing and torturing the innocent is totally rejected by Islam; and this is mentioned in more than one of the verses that ban the killing of the innocent.

  • صباح جاجو

    2010-9-11

    The spread of al Qaeda with its official name in Lebanon is considered limited or non-existent, but there are other groups which hold other names. Indeed, they definitely represent Al Qaeda, or let’s say they represent the “hand” of al Qaeda in Lebanon. In fact, they are funded by this terrorist organization, and they are called the Fath Islam Group. The latter has been active in Lebanon for almost three years, and has sparked a wave of violent clashes with the Lebanese Army, which claimed the lives of many of this movement’s members. Thus, the Fath Islam Group was almost paralyzed, thanks to the courage of the Lebanese security forces. Today, after the Lebanese security forces recently killed the Movement’s leader, I think that al Qaeda is collapsing. In fact, it is witnessing a critical situation and cannot even establish a group or a strong organization in Lebanon, because al Qaeda’s loss of its second leader within a few years will destabilize this organization and inevitably lead to its collapse. I also notice through the nature of events that the Lebanese security forces have managed to significantly diminish the role of al Qaeda in Lebanon by limiting its scope of activities. As a result, they are now on the defensive and are unable to take the initiative or attack, unlike what is happening in many other countries in the world. I believe that the success of the Lebanese forces in diminishing al Qaeda’s role may be attributed to the good intelligence job, which consisted in infiltrating the ranks of this organization, which led to the death of its leader in Lebanon. In fact, this can be considered as a big blow to this terrorist organization in Lebanon, which left it torn apart and in a state of weakness and confusion.

  • بلال الحبشي

    2010-9-11

    May God kill all the leaders of al-Qaeda and the dwarfs of the Jihad movements.

  • طاهر صابر المرشدي

    2010-9-8

    The hard blows which al-Qaeda is suffering from time to time will contribute a great deal to weakening this terrorist organization, and will lead to its inevitable collapse in addition to all the extremist groups which look to it as a role model. Since Arab countries are the countries most affected by terrorism and where radical movements are mostly spread, I think that their leaders must join efforts in order to clamp down on al-Qaeda and other organizations and form common security committees or a common security operation room to reach a common stance. In so doing, they will declare war on terrorism in the Arab countries, as we have suffered a lot from the harm caused by terrorism and its cowardly acts. We hope that our Arab governments will ensure our safety and the security of our nations from this great terrorist aggression, which is launched by al-Qaeda members on civilians, the public interest and service, particularly in the Arab world.

  • المصري

    2010-9-8

    The arrest of many of the leaders of sectarianism from al-Qaeda and their being killed will bring hope to Arab citizens and contribute to confusing and dissolving the al-Qaeda organization. This will also make al-Qaeda lose much of its force, which was responsible for harming innocent people all over the world. In fact, we are witnessing the acts of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and the other countries of the Arab Maghreb, in addition to Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, I hope terrorism will be treated more severely, in order to prevent its spread in the Arab world rather than coexisting with it and taking it for granted. All in all, I think that al-Qaeda today is witnessing its most difficult phase in all the Arab countries and the whole world, since this organization has become known and its reality is exposed due to the criminal acts it carried out in those countries, and especially in Iraq, where the innocent people are terrorized. Thus, al-Qaeda will be over and will end up in the dustbin of history. In fact, the arrest of its leaders represents the beginning of its end, and the hunting down of any leader by the security forces will certainly weaken this organization.

  • عمر السراي

    2010-9-7

    Killing al-Qaeda princes certainly contributes to weakening the organization in the Arab and Islamic countries, because they will disperse as a result of their capture or killing. Also, al-Qaeda elements are weak and can do nothing without their princes and financiers. Proof of which is the subsiding of al-Qaeda’s activity in Iraq and the Arab countries after the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the reduced terrorist operations in Iraq, and that is what enabled the security forces to control the security situation there. Due to the killing of the commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, by the Iraqi security forces and the friendly U.S. troops, many elements of al-Qaeda were arrested, which is evidence that killing the leaders of the al-Qaeda terrorist network leads to a major weakness for the organization in countries where it is found. In addition to the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi security forces performed another operation and killed the terrorist Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and arrested many of his aides and advisers. This led to a marked weakness in terrorist operations in Iraq. So, killing the princes of al-Qaeda will certainly contribute to weakening al-Qaeda in countries where the terrorist organization is found. To fully control it, there must be a continued hunt down of elements until they are killed or brought to justice, in order to rid people of their evil.

  • 2010-9-7

    Long live Al-Qaeda, the killer of infidels.

  • سمرقند

    2010-9-6

    O God, O Generous one, please retaliate against the terrorist groups of Al-Qaeda in this life and in the Hereafter. O God, please judge them along with the Nazis, Saddam and all the killers of human beings. O God, please take revenge on their houses and kill all their women and children. They have deceived the Muslim youth and blown up places of worship, killing innocent people and children.

  • اسماعيل ابو شنب

    2010-9-6

    The death of any member of the dirty al-Qaeda terrorist organization makes the Islamic world a safer place and accelerates the collapse of this organization. In Lebanon, al-Qaeda is not powerful or influential, and the security forces there keep the situation under control. Therefore, arresting the members of the dirty terrorist organization of al-Qaeda is easy, and they have civilian intelligence agents who provide these forces with the information. In my opinion, the death of the representatives of al-Qaeda in Lebanon is a very important issue for all Muslims in general and the Lebanese in particular. We have to work seriously so as not to allow al-Qaeda to kill innocent citizens. Therefore, I see that killing the representatives of al-Qaeda in Lebanon is a great success, because this terrorist organization wants to dominate the country. I call on the Lebanese security forces not to allow the terrorists to have control over Lebanon, because they will wreak havoc on earth and incite a sectarian war in Lebanon. This is a red line that must not be crossed.

  • مواطن مصرى

    2010-9-6

    These organizations are very stupid, because they ignore the most basic thing; that is that they are hostile to the whole world, which was mobilized by the United States of America against their extremism, which unfortunately did not leave a friend, but disagreed with everyone, including the countries that were backing them. Even more than that, these organizations are hostile for personal purposes.

  • نون

    2010-9-4

    May God curse terrorism and extremism.

  • الجهيني

    2010-9-4

    Death to Al Qaeda everywhere. It is like cancer; they should not live in our Islamic and Arabic countries.