9.05.2007

Lebanon's Victory Over Political Terror


Saniora Declares Victory, Vows to Rebuild Nahr al-Bared

Naharnet
02 Sep 07

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora on Sunday declared victory over terrorism after the Lebanese army seized full control of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.

"It is the greatest national victory for Lebanon over the terrorists in Nahr al-Bared," Saniora said, hours after the Lebanese army took control of the camp in a ferocious battle that left 37 militants of Fatah al-Islam and three soldiers killed.

Another 20 militants were captured, and an unknown number has fled, with troops giving chase.

"It is a great success that the Lebanese army has achieved over the terrorists, those who sought chaos, destruction and tragedies for Lebanon," he said in a televised speech to the country.

He pledged that the Lebanese government would rebuild Nahr al-Bared, but said that the camp would be placed under the authority of the state and "only the Lebanese state."

"As we said at the beginning of the battle, the Lebanese state is committed to rebuilding the camp and today we are restating this pledge," Saniora said, adding that he had called for a meeting of donor countries on September 10 to help in rebuilding efforts.

"As the state stood by you when you were forced to flee Nahr al-Bared, we stand by you again in rebuilding the camp so that you can return there with your heads held high," Saniora said, addressing the estimated 30,000 Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee at the start of the standoff between the army and Fatah al-Islam militants on May 20.

"Rest assured that this war was not against the Palestinians but was a joint Lebanese-Palestinian battle against terrorists -- and this victory was a common one," Saniora added.

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Civilians Celebrate Army Victory

Naharnet
04 Sep 07

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Tripoli and surrounding northern towns Tuesday to Salute army units withdrawing from a bombed-out camp that was the scene of fierce battles with Islamist fighters.

Men, women and children waved Lebanese flags and danced the traditional Dabkeh as commando units in armored personnel carriers, tanks and other military vehicles slowly made their way toward their home base near Beirut.

Dozens of Palestinians who were forced to flee Nahr al-Bared camp at the start of the deadly standoff between the Fatah al-Islam militia and the army on May 20 also joined in the celebrations, waving Palestinian flags.

Motorists, including drivers of ambulances and fire trucks, honked their horns as the soldiers went by smiling and flashing the "V" for victory sign. Some of the soldiers also fired celebratory shots.

"I came with my wife and children to celebrate the army's victory," said Abdel Nasser al-Dannun 55. "My brother took part in the battles and thank God he survived.

"May those who died rest in peace."

The army said 163 soldiers were killed in the 106-day battle for control of Nahhr al-Bared. Fatah al-Islam lost 222 terrorists and 202 were rounded up for trial.


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Army Victory in Nahr al-Bared Welcomed

Naharnet
03 Sep 07

Lebanese newspapers on Monday hailed the army's "crushing victory" over Fatah al-Islam militants in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared as a move which could cement unity in a politically divided country.

"Lebanon scores victory over terrorism," trumpeted the front-page headline of the pro-government newspaper Al-Mustaqbal.

On Sunday, troops seized control of the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon from Fatah al-Islam after nearly four months of fierce fighting.

The leading daily An-Nahar said the defeat of Islamist fighters was "a serious victory... which shows that the army is capable of fighting terrorism and that the military enjoys the backing of all the Lebanese and their politicians."

"The wide political backing for the army was a positive development which can help establish an atmosphere of unity" in Lebanon, which has faced months of political deadlock, it added.

The front-page editorial of the leftist As-Safir newspaper said "as Lebanon remained mired in political conflicts, the army achieved a crushing victory, with the backing of all its people."

"This is a ray of light that opens the door for all parties to put aside their arrogance and insistence on monopolizing the country, when it is impossible for any single party to control or speak in the name of the nation."

The pro-opposition Al-Akhbar daily said: "This is a move seen by everybody as a crushing victory."

It highlighted Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's declaration "that the camp will be under the sole authority of Lebanese security forces, and no other party."

Lebanon's 12 Palestinian refugee camps have been off-limits to the army for decades under a 1969 agreement which was annulled by parliament in 1987.

But in line with a tacit agreement since then, the camps have remained under the control of armed Palestinian factions, with the Lebanese army enforcing security around the shantytowns.

Three days after the fighting started, the Palestine Liberation Organization representative in Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, said the PLO would not object if the Lebanese army decided to send its troops into the camp to crush the Islamists.

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Murr Says Fatah al-Islam's Losses 222 Killed, 202 Captured

Naharnet

04 Sep 07


Defense Minister Elias Murr announced Tuesday that the Lebanese army has killed 222 Fatah al-Islam terrorists and rounded up 202 in 106 days of fighting in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared and its environs.

The terrorists also lost an undisclosed number of militants in the fight with broke out on May 20 and ended on Sunday, Murr told a news conference at the Defense Ministry headquarters.

The army, Murr said, lost 163 "martyrs" in the fighting, the toughest since the 15-year civil war came to an end on Oct. 13, 1990.

Murr hailed the army's victory over terrorism and said the army will continue to be committed to implementing U.N. Resolution 1701, monitoring the Lebanon-Syria border, protecting the Taef accord and countering terrorism.

"Following the army's victory, we reaffirm our commitment to safeguard the south from Israeli aggression and to implement Resolution 1701, monitor the Lebanese-Syrian border and regional waters as well as reinforce security and stability and protect the Taef accord," Murr said.

"Following the army's victory, we reaffirm our commitment to counter terrorism," Murr stressed.

Murr warned against the emergence of two governments, saying failure to elect a new president for Lebanon would "complete the crime against Lebanon, the Lebanese and the army as well as its martyrs."

He also vowed not to go "backwards," stressing that "no crime will go unpunished."

Murr told Palestinians living in Lebanon they need not fear anymore.

"…There is no need for fear among Palestinian civilians and there is no fear from Palestinians," Murr stressed.

Murr said there was still an undetermined number of militants buried in mass graves inside the camp by fellow fighters.

Murr stressed that the bombed-out seaside camp would remain under the authority of the state, reiterating similar comments made by Prime Minister Fouad Saniora.

"There will be no authority but that of the state to protect the civilians at Nahr al-Bared," Murr said. "Our Palestinian brothers also paid a dear price because of these terrorists."

Prior to the standoff that began May 20 at Nahr al-Bared, Lebanon's 12 Palestinian camps were declared off-limits to the Lebanese army and were under the control of armed Palestinian factions.

Brig. Gen. George Khoury, head of the army's intelligence service, said many of the Islamists captured had admitted that the Sunni Muslim extremist group was linked to Osama bin-Laden's al-Qaida network.

"Al-Qaida was in constant contact with Fatah Islam," said Khoury. "Fatah al-Islam was totally linked to al-Qaida."

Khoury also said that large quantities of weapons and ammunition, including machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and explosives have been seized in the fighting. Despite Fatah al-Islam's collapse here, "we shall continue the war on terror," he said.

As he spoke, troops were combing the battered camp and the nearby region, seeking to smoke out the last remaining fighters involved in the battles.

An army officer told AFP that troops had clashed with two militants early Tuesday, wounding and capturing one of them. Six bodies were also recovered from the camp Tuesday, the officer said.

"We believe a few militants are still holed up inside the camp," he said on condition of anonymity.

Murr said 163 soldiers had fallen during the battles but urged their families to hold their head high as their deaths represented a victory over terrorism.

"This victory allowed us to put an end to the worst threat ever faced by the Lebanese," he said. "Fatah al-Islam could have spread throughout the country like cancerous cells."

He added that the country was determined to continue to fight terrorism.

"The army has defeated Fatah al-Islam, it has defeated terrorism," he said. "They took the army's patience for weakness, its wisdom as a sign of reluctance and its warnings as mere words.

The army said troops have seized a large amount of weapons inside the camp, including anti-tank rockets, sniper guns, mortars, Katyusha rockets, explosives, mines and booby traps.

About 3,000 soldiers took part in the fighting at Nahr al-Bared, including several commando units which began to withdraw from the area Tuesday to head back to their bases.

They were expected to be met on the road by cheerful crowds.


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