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Lebanese Army Mops Up Insurgents at Tripoli Refugee Camp

03 September 2007

Authorities in Lebanon say they have identified the body of Chaker al Abssi, the leader of the Palestinian Fatah al-Islam group, that has been holed up inside a Tripoli refugee camp. The group held the camp for 105-days, until Sunday when Lebanese Army troops stormed the facility. Edward Yeranian reports from Beirut.

Lebanese danced and celebrated after yesterday's victory over the Fatah al-Islam militants, but residents of the camp and surrounding areas, as well as the army are picking up the pieces and mopping up, as another day begins.

Smoke continues to pour from destroyed buildings inside Tripoli's Nahr al Bared refugee camp, and helicopters continue to hover over the area, as the Lebanese Army tries to flush out any guerillas that might remain in the rubble.

Army sources say that the militant's leader, the Palestinian Chaker al Abssi, was killed and that his wife has identified his body.

Up to a dozen militants may have escaped, according to the Beirut press, and the army is conducting a nationwide dragnet.

Fatah al Islam's erstwhile spokesman, Abu Salim Taha, was reportedly killed, this morning, while hiding near one of the camp's entrances.

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora says that the Nahr al Bared refugee camp will be rebuilt, but will no longer be under Palestinian control.

Dr. Ahmed Fatfat, a key minister in Prime Minister Saniora's government, says that while everyone in Lebanon is pleased by the army victory, the battle to rebuild, has just begun:

"Really, for us it is a great victory, for the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese government and the Lebanese population, which was with the army in this battle against the terrorists, but it is also a victory for the Palestinians, because Fatah al Islam was kidnapping the camp of Nahr al Bared, but the real battle is beginning now, because we have a great work to reconstruct the camp and all the villages around the camp," said Dr. Fatfat. "We need so much help ... so Mr. Saniora, our Prime Minister asks the donors to have a meeting on the 10th of September ... and we hope our friends, Arabic and the Americans and the Europeans will help us and support us to reconstruct the camp ..."

The top Palestinian leader in Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, a member of the mainstream Fatah organization, told al Arabiya TV that he was pleased by the Lebanese Army victory, and that he hoped that relations between Lebanon and the Palestinians has not suffered because of the lengthy siege, in which many Palestinians also suffered.

Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish volunteer working to help displaced Palestinians from the Nahr al Bared camp says that she hopes the displaced Palestinians will be helped in rebuilding their destroyed homes:

"Camp residents obviously welcome the fact that the siege is now officially over; you know, the people are waiting and hoping that the reconstruction process will actually take place with some efficacy; you know that they'll continue to focus on the humanitarian conditions in which the over 30,000 displaced people are still living in," she said.

The Lebanese Army is preventing anyone from entering the mostly destroyed camp, and Palestinian residents have been trying in vain to view the remains of their damaged homes.

Army sources say that the camp is still unsafe, because of all the mines and explosives that were used by the militants to booby trap buildings and alleyways.

Neighboring Syria, which many Lebanese accuse of masterminding the three-and-one-half-month siege, congratulated the Lebanese Army on its victory.

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