Fatah Al-Islam Becoming Entrenched and Making Enemies

The deadly Islamist group is accused of operating for Syrian intelligence in Lebanon. Its leader was sentenced to death by Jordan - twice.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz , | updated: 5:47 PM

Fatah Al-Islam leaders
Fatah Al-Islam leaders
The leader of a little-known, but deadly, Islamic fundamentalist terror group in Lebanon was sentenced in absentia to death by a Jordanian court this week. Shakir Al-Absi, leader of "Fatah Al-Islam," has been accused by Jordan of involvement in Al-Qaeda activities in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. He was previously sentenced to death under Jordanian law in 2002 for his part in the assassination of US diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman. His co-defendant in that case was the late Abu Musab Al-Zarkawi, leader of the Al-Qaeda forces in Iraq.

Lebanese authorities say that Al-Absi and his Fatah Al-Islam organization were behind several bus bombings in a Christian village on February 13. Four Syrian nationals confessed to the bombings earlier this month, according to Lebanese government officials. The Lebanese Interior Minister, Hassan Al-Sabaa, declared, "It is no secret that Fatah Al-Islam is Fatah Al-Intifada, and Fatah Al-Intifada is part of the Syrian intelligence-security apparatus."

Fatah Al-Intifada, also known as the Abu Musa Faction, was established in the Arab refugee camps of Lebanon in 1983 either directly by Syrian intelligence or with extensive Syrian support, which it enjoys until today. Fatah Al-Islam ostensibly broke ranks with Fatah Al-Intifada in 2006 over what a Fatah Al-Islam announcement called the "apostate seculars" leading its parent organization. Syria claims it has issued orders for Al-Absi's arrest.

Al-Absi was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying that the accusations by Lebanon and Jordan against him and his organization are "part of the American conspiracy against Lebanon and the Middle East." He also claimed the charge that Fatah Al-Islam was involved in the bus bombings in a Christian Lebanese village is intended to pave the way for a military incursion into the refugee camps of Lebanon. Currently, Lebanese army forces maintain a tight security perimeter around the refugee camps; however, an old agreement reached between armed refugee factions and the Lebanese government prevents the soldiers from entering the camps under almost any pretext.

With a center of activity in the northern Lebanese Nahr Al-Bard refugee camp, Fatah Al-Islam's stated goal is "fighting the Jews and all who support them of the Zionist Crusaders of the West, and liberating our sacred [lands]. ...[By] Allah, we did not take this step [of splitting from Fatah Al-Intifada] but only wishing for martyrdom." The group - which adopted a black flag bearing the words "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the prophet of Allah" - reportedly has several hundred active members, but is known to be well armed and well financed.

PLO and affiliated militia factions in the Lebanese refugee camps are emphatic that Fatah Al-Islam is a foreign import. A Nahr Al-Bard member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying, "Fatah Al-Islam is not a legitimate Palestinian group. They are a foreign force. Whoever brought them here should take them out."