Abdul Rahman Awad, the group leader, was killed along with his deputy, Ghazi Faysal Abdullah, also known as ‘ Abu Bakr ‘. They were shot by Lebanese security forces during a clash in the Bekaa Valley over the weekend. The group confirmed the deaths of Awad and Abdullah in a statement released on a jihadi website, and said that the two leaders were traveling to Iraq to join up with the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda’s front group.
The statement was discovered by the SITE Intelligence Group. Fatah al Islam’s top leaders are known to have had close links to al Qaeda in Iraq. Shakir al Abssi, the leader of Fatah al Islam up until December 2008, had close ties to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the deceased leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Fatah al Islam claimed that Syrian forces killed Abssi in 2008. Following the elimination of Awad and his deputy, Osama al-Shehabi was chosen as his successor, along with Toufic Taha, who was chosen as a military and security official.
Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to use eastern Syria as a staging ground for foreign terrorists entering Iraq, often with the support of Syria’s intelligence service.
The Lebanese government has sought to dismantle Fatah al Islam since 2007, when the Lebanese military carried out a major offensive against the group in the Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, killing 222 of the group members. 171 Lebanese soldiers were killed during the 15-week battle. Fatah al Islam has been linked to several terror attacks and plots in the Middle East, including a September 2008 car bombing in Damascus, Syria, a plots to blow up trains in Germany and assassinate anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon.
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