January 8, 2008 / 6:04 AM / 12 years ago

Fatah al-Islam chief warns of attacks on Lebanon army

DUBAI (Reuters) - The leader of the Fatah al-Islam group threatened attacks against the Lebanese army after it crushed its militants in battles at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon last year.

Lebanese soldiers secure the site of an explosion in the Christian town of Baabda, east of Beirut, December 12, 2007. The leader of the Fatah al-Islam group threatened attacks against the Lebanese army after it crushed its militants in battles at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon last year. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

“Nahr al-Bared camp will stand witness to your shame until the mujahideen tread your (bodies) with their shoes,” a speaker identified as Shaker al-Abssi said in a 58-minute audio recording posted on a Web site used by al Qaeda and other Islamist groups on Monday.

“This was only the beginning ... By God you will not live safely,” he said. “The mill of war has started to grind ... between the infidels and the believers.”

If authenticated, the recording would be the first public evidence that Abssi survived the 15-week battle in which more than 400 people were killed.

“This is my first speech after the epic of Nahr al-Bared,” said the militant who praised al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as the “Sheikh (leader) of Mujahideen”. He said there were 140 fighters in the camp.

He said he wished he had died alongside his fellow fighters in the Nahr al-Bared camp and accused the Lebanese army of using banned weapons in the battle that destroyed most of it.

At the time a Fatah al-Islam prisoner identified a body as Abssi’s as did his wife and family members. The Lebanese army ran DNA tests after taking blood from his relatives.

The Lebanese public prosecutor has said DNA tests proved that Abssi, a Palestinian, was not among the fighters killed by Lebanese troops. Lebanese troops seized control of the camp on September 2.

“I think victory, as far as you are concerned, is to please (U.S. President George W.) Bush and the Jews, is he not the god you worship?” said the militant in a message addressed to what he described as the “crusader army” of Lebanon.

He said Washington had promised army chief Michel Suleiman — now the compromise candidate for the Lebanese presidency — to become the head of state if he was able to win the battle.

“America ... told the leader of the crusader army: ‘if you want the chair of presidency then you have to bring down the head of Nahr al-Bared’,” he said.

The militant vowed in the undated recording to seek the release of the group’s prisoners and urged Muslims to help the group’s militants.

Abssi was sentenced to death in absentia for the killing of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan in 2002. He was later jailed in Syria before setting up Fatah al-Islam in north Lebanon last year.

Reporting by Inal Ersan; editing by Elizabeth Piper

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