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Sunni Militant Group Fatah al-Islam Inspired by Al-Qaida

25 May 2007

The leader of the Sunni militant group Fatah al-Islam says he is inspired by al-Qaida's ideology, but he denies any organizational link to the terrorist network.

Fatah al-Islam's confrontation with Lebanese troops began when security forces raided the residence of group members in connection with a bank robbery.

Group leader Shaker Abssi is a Palestinian militant wanted by Syria and Jordan. Jordan sentenced him in absentia to death for the murder of an American diplomat in 2002. The late head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also was given a death sentence for the murder.

Abssi has described Fatah al-Islam's goals as the reformation of the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon according to Islamic law, and opposition to Israel.

Fatah al-Islam is said to have more than 200 fighters based in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli. The group's membership is reported to be drawn from several Arab countries.

Lebanese authorities have accused Fatah al-Islam of being controlled by Syrian intelligence, an accusation that is denied by the group and Syria.

The group first came to attention last November when it split with Syrian-linked Fatah-al-Intifada, which itself originated as a splinter of the Palestinian Fatah group.

Lebanese authorities have blamed Fatah al-Islam for February bus bombings that killed three people. The group denies any involvement.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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