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Leader of Fatah al-Islam reported killed in refugee camp battle

RIA Novosti

03/09/2007 16:39 (Adds Russian Foreign Ministry comment, background in paras 6-8)

DAMASCUS, September 3 (RIA Novosti) - Shaker al-Abssi, the leader of militant Islamist group Fatah al-Islam, is reported to have been killed by Lebanese troops in a fierce gunbattle in a Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon Sunday.

After the Lebanese army stormed the Nahr al-Bared camp, killing and arresting nearly all remaining insurgents, a Fatah al-Islam prisoner positively identified al-Abssi's body, but Lebanese authorities are awaiting the results of a DNA test before officially announcing the militant leader's death.

During the battle, around 35 members of the Islamist organization were reported killed. In a deal brokered between security forces and fighters, the group members' wives and children had been allowed to leave on August 24.

The scene of some of the country's most brutal fighting for over a decade, where 300 people are believed to have died since the army's three-month siege began, the final showdown between the 'al-Qaeda inspired' group and the Lebanese army erupted when fighters attempted a night breakout from the camp.

Celebrations broke out among local residents after the conclusion of the battle, and troops were reportedly greeted by crowds of villagers.

Russia's Foreign Ministry welcomed the end of the counter-terrorist operation, saying Moscow hoped the situation in the country would stabilize.

"Russia has always supported the actions of the Lebanese authorities in their attempts to restore law and order. By this we mean the complete control of the Lebanese government over the entire territory of Lebanon in line with the resolutions of the UN Security Council," the ministry said in a statement Monday.

The siege of Nahr al-Bared, originally home to around 40,000, began on May 20 when militants holed up in the camp launched attacks against Lebanese security forces in response to police raids on insurgents' hideouts in Tripoli. By early June, most of the camp's refugees had already fled to other camps.


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