BEIRUT, (AFP) – The leader of an Al-Qaeda splinter group was found shot dead execution-style on Saturday in Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, a Palestinian official said.
“The body of Ghandi Sahmarani, leader of Jund al-Sham, was found this morning in a garage inside the camp,” Fatah official Mounir Makdah told AFP.
An AFP photographer who saw Sahmarani’s body in the morgue in the southern coastal city of Sidon said his hands had been bound with wire behind his back and it appeared he had been killed with a single shot to the mouth.
Makdah said that Sahmarani, a Lebanese, had been “a friend” of Abdel Rahman Awad, the presumed chief of the shadowy Fatah al-Islam, an Islamist group which fought a deadly battle in 2007 against the Lebanese army at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in the country’s north.
In August, Lebanese troops killed Awad, a Palestinian, and his aide, “Abu Bakr” Mubarak, in a shootout in the eastern town of Chtaura in the Bekaa Valley.
Jund al-Sham, the Arabic for “Army of Greater Syria,” is a radical Sunni militant group believed to be based in Ain al-Hilweh, the largest of Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps, and linked to Al-Qaeda.
Ain al-Hilweh, outside Sidon, has gained notoriety as a refuge for extremists and fugitives.
By longstanding convention, the Lebanese army does not enter the country’s camps, leaving security inside in the hands of Palestinian factions.
Most of Lebanon’s hundreds of thousands of refugees live in the overpopulated camps, which are armed to the teeth.
On October 28, a 13-year-old boy was killed and four other people wounded in a grenade blast outside a scrapmetal yard in northern Lebanon’s Nahr al-Bared camp, scene of a fierce 2007 battle between Islamists and the Lebanese army.