Tripoli, Asharq Al-Awsat- Fatah al-Islam spokesperson, Abu-Salim Taha rejected calls for giving up members of his group in an effort to reach a consensus with the Lebanese army.
In an excusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Abu-Salim Taha spokesman for Fatah al-Islam, the group that has been fighting the Lebanese national army in northern Lebanon said, “We are happy to accept anything suggested to us apart from proposals that go against our religion and faith. In other words, we cannot hand over any person, because this is treason against God and his prophet. Moreover, we will not be able to leave this camp for any other place.”
“The army is asking us to hand over our brothers under the pretext that they had attacked it, whereas they [the army] were the ones who started the aggression. Will they hand over the elements that attacked us? Will they accept to do that?” He added.
While Abu-Salim denied that negotiations took place because of the fighting conditions in Nahr al-Barid camp, he revealed that the organization was responsive to several initiatives made in the last few days, particularly one that suggested that an Islamic Palestinian force acts as a buffer between the elements of the organization and the [Lebanese] army.
Abu-Salim affirmed that “We accepted this suggestion despite the fact that we considered it as a prison sentence for us. However, we wanted to prevent bloodshed. Negotiations reached a number of positive points while some other points remained pending. The delegation of the Palestinian clerics’ league went to discuss this solution. But on Saturday morning we were surprised with the attack carried out by the army against us. Despite all this, we are still ready to negotiate but within the framework of the constants we are attached to for the satisfaction of God and his prophet. We had rather have the last one of us killed than hand over any person.”
Abu-Salim who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat from Nahr al-Barid camp during a four-hour truce requested by the army to evacuate civilians, denied that the army had captured Fatah al-Islam positions in the newly-built areas to north of the camp. “I have just come back from a steadfast position and the cooperative that was allegedly destroyed. We have not taken shelter in the mosques, nor did we hide in the humanitarian centers. As for Abu-Hurayrah, whom they say was wounded; I was with him one hour ago. He is in good shape busy doing his job. We have been dragged into a battle that is not ours, and we were forced to defend ourselves.” Abu-Salim said.
When asked whether their presence in apartments at the centre of Tripoli with weapons and explosives when the army carried out raids against them last week was an act of aggression against the state and its security, Abu-Salim said ,”We consider that the gathering weapons outside the camp is a harmless matter. Moreover, we do not recognize this government or any other Arab government, which we consider illegitimate. These are dwarf states which are the legacy of colonialism and Sykes-Picot [accords]. We believe that the land belongs to God and He can give it to whoever He chooses.” Abu-Salim also revealed that some parties proposed to displace them to Iraq, but he mocked this suggestion and said: “Who can imagine that the US army will welcome us over there?” As for another proposal about at least surrendering their heavy armament, he considered this as a way of committing suicide, which cannot be accepted. He stressed that there is no destination they want to go to, and that they will not accept to leave Nahr al-Barid camp. He added, “We did accept — and we still do — to pledge to the Lebanese army that we will not embark on any actions that harm or undermine security, order or stability in Lebanon.”
When asked to clarify how he made pledges to a state and an authority that his group did not recognize? The Fatah al-Islam spokesmen said that they are human beings like us, and people do talk to each other and hold negotiations. But we do not mix between matters which we consider distinct.
When we asked him about their current objectives and how they see the future of the organization, Abu-Salim told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “Like all Islamic movements, our only purpose is to seek God’s satisfaction. We are ready to shed blood but we are also willing to prevent that. However, we pray God to spare our blood and to keep us away from the plots being hatched against us.”
The Fatah al-Islam spokesperson mocked all the accusations leveled at them, such as their intention to create an emirate in Tripoli or to prepare for bombing acts. He also said that the organization had nothing to do with the bombings in Al-Ashrafiyah, Fardan or Aliyah. We have stressed this in the past, but a Reuter’s journalist had disseminated the contrary. So, I got in touch with him and he apologized for the mistake he made.