BEIRUT (AFP) – An Islamic militant jailed for his part in deadly battles with the Lebanese army in 2007 escaped from the country’s main jail on Tuesday, an army spokesman said.
“Taha Ahmad Haji Sleiman, who has dual Syrian and Palestinian nationality, escaped from Rumieh prison this morning,” the spokesman said.
“Seven other prisoners who attempted to break out with him were recaptured.”
Troops backed by helicopters have launched a manhunt for the fugitive, who was convicted of membership of the Al-Qaeda inspired Fatah Al-Islam group which led an uprising in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared two years ago.
The fighting killed some 400 people, including 168 soldiers, and deadly clashes also broke out in the nearby northern port city of Tripoli but some of the uprising’s leaders managed to escape despite a siege of more than three months by the army.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency said Sleiman had escaped into a wooded area near Rumieh, northeast of Beirut, after the 5:30 am (0230 GMT) breakout.
“The eight prisoners scaled a wall by giving each other leg-ups, and Sleiman jumped and got away.”