Death Toll Mounts in Lebanon

Clashes between an obscure Palestinian faction allegedly affiliated to al-Qaeda and the Lebanese army continued yesterday. Lebanese tanks battered the coastal camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon, home to some 40,000 refugees, as fighters of the Fatah al-Islam group fired grenades and machine guns at army posts on the perimeter. The Sunni Muslim faction, which emerged late last year, has only a few hundred fighters and scant political support in Lebanon, but appears to be well armed, organized and motivated. Palestinian sources in the camp said the bombardment had killed nine civilians and wounded 20.

The bloody clashes are “part of a big plan” aimed at destabilizing Lebanon, claimed Michel Naoufal, the international editor of the pro-government al-Mustaqbal newspaper. “One needs a big plan, a strategy to launch an attack on such a scale. This group (Fatah al-Islam) is undoubtedly related to the international and regional situation.”

Naoufal said attacks against the army were also a reply to remarks by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, who visited Lebanon last Tuesday. Welch, in an interview with the Associated Press, said he expects the Hariri tribunal to be established, adding that the United States “would not abandon Lebanon.” Naoufal said, “Welch had given a bold message to Syria and Iran, now we have the reply from the pro-Syrian” Fatah al-Islam group.

Information from Turkish Daily News