- Title: LEBANON: Lebanese troops take conrol of Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon
- Date: 3rd September 2007
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ALI AL KHATIB, NAHR AL BARED DISPLACED REFUGEE, SAYING: "We are here like suspects who do not know whether we will be judged with capital punishment or innocence. We are waiting till we go back and we will not desert our area."
- Embargoed: 18th September 2007 13:00
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Reuters ID: LVA9W5BXJTUSFLV0F2VDXRQ128S8
- Story Text: Lebanese troops took control on Sunday of a Palestinian refugee camp where they had been battling militants for more than three months, killing at least 31 fighters who tried to flee, security sources said.
Thirty-four more fighters from the Fatah al-Islam group were captured, 23 of them inside the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon. The violence is Lebanon's worst internal fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The battle has added to instability in Lebanon. Here is a chronology of the country's recent problems: An army statement said the militants, who have been fighting for more than three months, made their move in the early hours of the morning. They "attacked army positions in a desperate attempt to flee", the statement said, urging citizens to contact the army if they encountered suspect individuals.
The security source said at least three gunmen from outside the camp had also attacked an army position in order to help the fighters to flee.
Security forces patrolled the area, searching orchards and fields, while helicopters hovered overhead in a hunt for any militants who had managed to escape from the camp on the Mediterranean coast. Naval boats patrolled the sea.
The fighting at Nahr al-Bared was Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war. The fighting has killed more than 300 people, including at least 154 soldiers, 120 militants and 42 civilians.
Most of the camp's 40,000 residents fled to a nearby Palestinian refugee camp in the early days of the battle, which erupted on May 20 when the army says Fatah al-Islam attacked its positions near the camp and the northern city of Tripoli.
Fatah al-Islam split from a Syrian-backed Palestinian faction last year. It says it shares al Qaeda's ideology but has no organisational ties to the network. The hardline Sunni Islamist group includes Lebanese, Saudi and Syrian fighters.
The fate of Shaker al-Abssi, the Palestinian leader of the group, was unclear.
The militants have put up fierce resistance, managing to inflict casualties on the army despite aerial and artillery bombardment. Their wives and children were evacuated from the camp on August 24.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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