By Brandon Kaufman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BEIRUT, Lebanon– On Wednesday, a Lebanese military judge indicted 11 suspected members of an al-Qaeda inspired group with plotting terrorist attacks and monitoring U.N. peacekeeper movements, judicial officials said.
Military judge Samih Hajj charged the men with planning bombings against civilian targets and undermining the state. A judicial source requesting anonymity told reporters that “Judge al-Hajj charged 11 suspected members of Fatah-al-Islam with forming an armed gang, spying on the army and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) troops (in southern Lebanon), and forging ID papers.”
If convicted, they could face the death penalty. Among those charged, six are in custody while five still remain at large. Two of the individuals who remain at large are Abdul Rahman Awad and Abdul Ghani Jawar, two Fatah al-Islam members accused of a deadly 2008 bus bombing in the northern city of Tripoli which killed 18 people, mostly soldiers.
Dozens of al-Qaeda inspired militants have been captured and charged in Lebanon during recent years. The majority of those individuals are from the Fatah al-Islam group that fought a bloody three month battle against the Lebanese army in the summer of 2007 in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared near Tripoli.
The fighting killed more than 400 people including some 200 militants, 170 soldiers and 47 civilians. In addition, close to 30,000 refugees were displaced after the camp was leveled during the fighting.
In June 2007, six peacekeepers of the UNIFIL were killed by a bombing in southern Lebanon while the Nahr al-Bared clashes raged. At the time, Lebanese officials pointed the finger at Fatah al-Islam for the incident.
Since the Nahr al-Bared battle, there has been widespread speculation that the group has switched its base to the highly volatile Palestinian camp of Ain al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon. Lebanese officials believe that Awad, who has been termed the “prince of Fatah al-Islam,” is holed up at Ain al-Hilweh, the largest of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian camps. However, because of longstanding agreement, the Lebanese army does not enter the camps, leaving security inside to Palestinian sanctions.
For more information, please see:
AFP- Lebanon Charges al Qaeda Linked Suspects with Spying– 17 February 2010
Reuters- Death Penalty Sought for Qaeda Suspects in Lebanon– 17 February 2010
The Wall Street Journal- Lebanon Charges 11 for Plotting Terrorist Attacks– 17 February 2010