DUBAI, (AFP) – Fatah al-Islam, an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that fought a devastating battle with the Lebanese army in 2007, has confirmed the death of two of its leaders, the SITE monitoring service said on Wednesday.
The group confirmed the “martyrdom of the mujahid (holy warrior) sheikh, the emir (leader) of Fatah al-Islam, Abu Muhammad Awad, and the mujahid commander and foreign brother, Abu Bakr Mubarak,” a SITE translation of a statement posted on jihadist forums said.
“They were martyred at the hands of the intelligence services of the Lebanese state, while they were on their way to the state of glory, the Islamic State of Iraq,” the statement said.
The Islamic State of Iraq is Al-Qaeda’s front organisation in that country.
The Lebanese army said the two were killed on Saturday, giving their names as Abdul Rahman Awad and Abu Bakr.
“Abdul Rahman Awad, one of the key leaders of Fatah al-Islam,” was killed along with another militant known as Abu Bakr during clashes in the eastern Bekaa Valley region, a military spokesman told AFP.
Awad, one of the most wanted Islamists in Lebanon, opened fire at troops along with his comrade and the soldiers responded, killing them, the spokesman said.
The clash broke out in the town of Chtaura and both men were travelling on false identities, the army said.
In 2007, Fatah al-Islam seized the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. In an army siege that raged for more than three months, the camp was levelled and 400 people killed, including 168 soldiers.
Lebanese judicial authorities accuse Awad of having incited militants to carry out attacks two years ago in the port city of Tripoli, near the camp, that killed 21 people, including 13 soldiers.
A judicial source said Abu Bakr was Awad’s key deputy who provided military training to members of Fatah al-Islam, a shadowy group said to be inspired by Al-Qaeda.