The U.S. State Department has designated Fatah al-Islam, a Sunni jihadist organization, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist after months of heavy clashes between its militants and the Lebanese army inside a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
The State Department says that Fatah al-Islam "has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States."
As a result of the designation, issued on August 9, 2007, "all property, and interests in property which Fatah al-Islam has in the U.S., or which enters the U.S. or comes under the control of U.S. persons, are blocked," according to the State Department.
Since the fighting broke out between Fatah al-Islam and Lebanese forces in the Nahar Al Bard refugee camp in May, at least 136 Lebanese soldiers and 41 civilians have been killed, according to Lebanese media reports. The number of Fatah al-Islam militants killed is unclear.
Founding & Ideology
Fatah al-Islam is a breakaway faction from Fatah al-Intifada, a secular Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorist group, according to the State Department. Fatah al-Islam split from Fatah al-Intifada under the leadership of Shakir al-Abssi, who seized control of the Fatah al-Intifada headquarters and its weapons depots on November 2006. Abssi later led several successful gun battles against Fatah al-Intifada loyalists and reportedly was able to establish a presence inside the Palestinian refugee camps of Nahar Al Bard, Shatilla and Burj Al Burahnih and in the Beirut suburb of Badawiyah.
Abbsi is wanted in Jordan for the 2002 murder of American diplomat Lawrence Foley, which American officials believe was orchestrated by the former head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Abbsi has denied any ties with Al Qaeda. "My group does not have any links with Al Qaeda, but whoever fights the enemies of Allah and the occupiers of our land is our brother in Jihad," Abbsi said in a March 2007 interview, in which he also vowed to continue fighting against "Americans, the Jews and their allies."
Fatah al-Islam's short term goal is to impose Islamic law in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps and defend Lebanese Sunnis, according to its spokesman. Fatah al-Islam also seeks fight against "the Christian West or Jewish Zionists" in all conflicts with Muslims, all over the world, according to Abbsi.
Record of Violence
Fatah al-Islam is composed of several hundred fighters - foreign nationals as well as Lebanese – including many former anti-PLO terrorist organizations created by Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Nidal.
The Lebanese government has demanded the surrender of all Fatah al-Islam members in Nahar Al Bard, where the Lebanese army has attacked its positions with machine guns, heavy artillery and gun-ships since May. Since the beginning of the siege, most of Nahar Al Bard's 30,000-40,000 inhabitants have fled.
The group first came to prominence after authorities accused it of blowing up two buses in Ayn Alaq in Lebanon in February 2007, killing three people. It has also been accused of shooting Lebanese soldiers and killing six UN peace keepers prior to its confrontation with the Lebanese army.
In response to the siege, Fatah al-Islam militants have reportedly thrown grenades in residential areas, planted sticks of dynamite in a college and detonated a car bomb in a commercial parking lot. It is also suspected of funding its activities through a series of bank robberies. One apprehended member, Abdallah Beishi, admitted to police that Fatah al-Islam funds itself through smuggling and theft.
At least 12 members of the group are currently facing charges of murder, attempted murder and theft in a Beirut criminal court.