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222 Militants Killed in Lebanon Camp Battles

04 September 2007

Lebanon Defense Minister Michel al-Murr says that 222 Fatah al-Islam militants were killed and more than 200 others were captured during the 105-day siege of a Tripoli Palestinian refugee camp. He says the guerrillas were trying to set up an Islamic emirate. Edward Yeranian reports from Beirut

Defense Minister Elias al Murr says the Fatah al-Islam militants were trying to isolate northern Lebanon to set up an Islamic state.

Lebanese Army forces finally gained control of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, Sunday, after a bitter and bloody siege. The defense minister says 163 Lebanese soldiers died in the battle. He vows the standoff will not be repeated.

He says the Fatah al-Islam movement is a serious threat to Lebanon and that it had spread "like a cancer" to every part of his country.

Murr thanked other Arab and Western countries that helped the Lebanese Army and urged the West to help further reinforce the army to confront other challenges:

He says Lebanon will continue the fight against terrorism and indicated it is in the world's best interest that the Lebanese Army remain strong.

Top Lebanese Army commanders gave a detailed account of the past three-and-a-half month's fighting, showing images of fierce battles with the terrorists. When asked if Syria was behind the Fatah al-Islam rebellion, as many Lebanese officials argue, the Army Chief of Staff refused to answer, saying that the Lebanese judicial system must investigate the claims.

Meanwhile, Palestinian refugees from the mostly destroyed Nahr al-Bared camp are eager to return to the camp, but the Lebanese Army is refusing to let them in, insisting that would be too dangerous.

The army says that it is still searching for fugitives. A Monday shootout killed five fleeing militants.

The Beirut media reports most of the camp's refugees are living in squalid conditions in the nearby Beddawi refugee camp. An elderly Palestinian man from the Beddawi camp told Al-Arabiya TV 50 people are living to a room and that the U.N. school was teeming with refugees.

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