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State Department Backs Lebanese Action Against Extremists

21 May 2007

Spokesman says Fatah al-Islam group is dedicated to violence

Washington -- Lebanon’s Security Forces “rightfully”  are taking action against a violent extremist group that has been operating out of a Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon, the State Department said, adding that the group, Fatah al-Islam, is “dedicated to the use of violence.”

Department spokesman Sean McCormack said May 21 that the Lebanese Security Forces “are working in a legitimate manner to provide a secure stable environment for the Lebanese people in the wake of provocations and attacks.”

He said Fatah al-Islam has been involved in “a number of violent activities,” and that its leader, Shakir Youssef al-Abssi, was sentenced to death in absentia by a Jordanian court in 2004 for his involvement in the 2002 murder of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman.

“So this is a group that is dedicated to the use of violence to achieve whatever their stated objective may be,” McCormack said.

Fatah al-Islam recently has conducted armed “attacks and forays” outside the borders of the refugee camp, including a bank robbery, McCormack said.

According to press reports, Fatah al-Islam is a relatively small group, linked to al-Qaida, that grew out of the pro-Syrian Fatah Intifada.  However, McCormack declined to connect the group directly with Syria.  “I can’t say that there aren’t any links, but at this point I wouldn’t draw that connection,” he said.

He also said he would not draw any linkage between the violence in Tripoli and possible U.N. action to push for an international tribunal to investigate the February 2005 assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister. (See related article.)

The spokesman repeated U.S. support for and confidence in the Lebanese government in the face of two years of political and violent provocations “by those interested in undermining democratic progress in Lebanon,” saying Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s administration “has proven to be remarkably stable and resilient.”

McCormack described Siniora as “an effective, strong leader” both for the Lebanese people, and “for the cause of political reform and democracy” in the country.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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