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Middle East
Fatah al-Islam leader believed dead
Statement posted on website says new leader named after Shaker al-Abssi's "death".
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2008 16:41 GMT
Lebanese troops fought the armed group in a 15-week battle that devastated the refugee camp [AFP]

The leader of Fatah al-Islam has been "captured or killed" in Syria, an online statement believed to be from the armed group has said.

Shaker al-Abssi and two other members of the group were ambushed in Syria on their way to a meeting to make contact with fighters in Iraq, Site, the US-based intelligence monitoring group, reported the website as saying on Wednesday.

The authenticity of the statement has not been confirmed.

The web posting said the three were either captured or killed in a gunfight with Syrian security forces at Jermana, a Damascus suburb.

"We don't know his fate, but we believe he probably was martyred, but we don't have solid evidence," the statement read, according to Site.

It said Abu Mohamad Awad has been elected to succeed Abssi as the new head of Fatah al-Islam.

Attack 'plans'

The statement said al-Abssi had fled to Syria after Fatah al-Islam fought a 15-week battle with the Lebanese army last year at Nahr al-Bared, a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

At least 430 people were killed in the fighting, over half of them were reportedly fighters from the group, which draws its members from across the Arab world.

At least 170 Lebanese troops were also killed in the fighting.

In November, Lebanon arrested six fighters suspected of belonging to Fatah al-Islam and being involved in bomb attacks in Lebanon and Syria.

The armed group has also been blamed for a suicide car bomb in Damascus last September, which left 17 people dead.

Syrian state television aired footage of 12 alleged members of the group confessing that they had helped plan the attack.

Source:
Agencies
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