Fatah Al-Islam, Ain Hilweh Intrigue

The Arab press is buzzing with news of the death or capture of Shakir al-`Absi, the head of Fatah al-Islam, the militant Islamist group that revolted against the Lebanese state at Nahr al-Barid last year.  News of his death or capture broke on the forums two days ago with the release of a document purporting to be a short history of what happened to the organization after Nahr al-Barid.The document, which the media office of Fatah al-Islam released on Jihadi forums, claims that `Absi and his companions fled to Syria to heal their wounds, reestablish ties with supporters that had been severed during the war, and rebuild the organization.  At one point, he tried to go to Afghanistan, but to no avail.  He next tried to connect with people who said they were able to take him to the brothers in Iraq, but on his way there he and two associates were ambushed in Jaramana.  Security forces surrounded the area and gunfire was heard, but it is unclear if `Absi and his companions were killed or captured.  After three days, Fatah al-Islam’s consultative council decided to appoint Abu Muhammad `Awad the amir of the group and everyone gave their oath of allegiance to him.

Now here’s the intrigue.  The new amir, Abu Muhammad `Awad, aka `Abd al-Rahma `Awad, is under the protection of `Usbat al-Ansar, a Jihadi group in the Ain Hilweh Palestinian camp in southern Lebanon.  There was talk three weeks ago of other factions in Ain Hilweh pressuring `Usbat al-Ansar to hand over `Awad and other Fatah al-Islam members to appease the Lebanese army and keep it out of the camp.  Then on Saturday `Usbat al-Ansar’s spokesman made a public declaration that it was Islamically forbidden to fight the Lebanese Army.  He added that force should not be used against the Lebanese Army or any other army (Hezbollah?); rather, he urged all of the Palestinian groups to turn their attention to Palestine and fighting the Jews.

In addition to the group’s public renunciation of violence against Lebanese, sources also say that it is in talks with official representatives of Lebanese security to hand over `Awad.

I don’t follow Jihadi camp politics in Lebanon closely (Bernard Rougier is your man for that), but this strikes me as a very big deal. 

Document (Arabic): 12-8-08-faloja-what-happened-to-fatah-al-islam-after-nahr-al-barid

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