- Title: LEBANON: Lebanon claims 222 Islamist militants killed in Palestinian camp battle
- Date: 4th September 2007
- Summary: (W3) BEIRUT, LEBANON (SEPTEMBER 4, 2007) (REUTERS) WIDE OF LEBANESE DEFENCE MINISTER ELIAS AL-MURR IN NEWS CONFERENCE LEBANESE ARMY OFFICERS AT NEWS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LEBANESE DEFENCE MINISTER ELIAS AL-MURR SAYING: "The death toll for the terrorists reached 222 and we captured 202 terrorists in addition to an unknown number who were buried by their colleagues in mass graves during the battles." JOURNALISTS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LEBANESE DEFENCE MINISTER ELIAS AL-MURR SAYING: "This victory uprooted the biggest threat that faced the Lebanese people because Fatah al-Islam was spreading like cancer cells to target each part of the nation; the organisation was aiming to isolate the north from Lebanon to create a terrorist emirate."
- Embargoed: 19th September 2007 13:00
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVAANAFIHBVONTI58ZA6O67FRHWZ
- Story Text: Lebanon says its army killed more than 200 Islamist militants belonging to a group which generals claim is directly linked to al Qaeda in a 15-week-long battle at a Palestinian refugee camp.
Lebanon said on Tuesday (September 4) the army killed at least 222 Islamist militants from an al Qaeda-linked group in a 15-week battle at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
The army finally took control of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp on Sunday (September 2) after more than three months of fierce battles, including air, sea and land bombardment against the entrenched Fatah al-Islam militants.
Defence Minister Elias al-Murr also said 202 militants were captured in the battles while an unknown number were buried in mass graves inside the largely destroyed camp.
"This victory uprooted the biggest threat that faced the Lebanese people because Fatah al-Islam was spreading like cancer cells to target each part of the nation," Murr told a news briefing.
"The organisation was aiming to isolate the north from Lebanon to create a terrorist emirate," he said.
At least 42 civilians and 163 soldiers died, bringing the death toll to 427 -- Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The army's head of intelligence said Fatah al-Islam was directly linked to al Qaeda. The group has said it has no organisational ties to Osama bin Laden's network and that its aims were to spread its hardline interpretation of Islam among Palestinians and to fight Israel.
Most of the militants were foreign Arab fighters and some had fought in Iraq.
Under a 1969 Arab agreement, the Lebanese army is banned from entering Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps. While the agreement was later annulled, it remained largely in place until the Nahr al-Bared battle began.
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