Families of Fatah Islam officials head to Syria from Lebanon

Six families stay behind, including that of the movement's fugitive leader Shaker Youssef al-Absi.

October 17, 2007 16:39
2 minute read.
Families of Fatah Islam officials head to Syria from Lebanon

fatah islam 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Eleven families of the militant Fatah Islam group left the southern Lebanese city of Sidon Wednesday on their way to Syria following weeks of negotiations over their departure, officials said. The families were among 17 who fled the fighting between the militants and the Lebanese army in the north and sought refugee at the al-Arqam mosque in Sidon. Six families stayed behind, including that of Shaker Youssef al-Absi, the movement's fugitive leader, for not having proper documents, an official with the General Security Department said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The families that were able to leave comprised either Syrian mothers and their children or Palestinians living in Syria, said the official who helps oversee border crossings and granting residency permits for foreigners in Lebanon. More than three months of heavy fighting between Lebanese troops and Fatah Islam militants in Nahr el-Bared ended with the army crushing the Islamic group on Sept. 2. Dozens of militants were killed in the fighting while others were either captured or still at large such as al-Absi. Early Wednesday, the families, including women wearing black cloaks that only revealed their eyes, boarded two General Security buses in front of the al-Arqam Mosque and left accompanied by two vehicles, one for the Lebanese Red Cross and another for the International Committee of the Red Cross. In late August, 25 wives of Fatah Islam fighters evacuated with their 38 children from the besieged camp, with some seeking refuge in Sidon and others going to relatives elsewhere in the country. Their evacuation paved the way for the Lebanese army to crush the militants and taking control of the camp. The General Security official said the six families that remained in Sidon included four Jordanians that their country refused to receive and two Syrians who did not have the proper documents. Sheik Ali al-Youssef of that Palestinian Scholars' Association, who negotiated the deal between Lebanese and Syrian authorities, said contacts are continuing with Jordanian and Syrian officials and "we hope that this will lead to welcoming them in Syria and Jordan." Meanwhile, a Lebanese court sentenced in Beirut Wednesday al-Absi's son-in-law Hani Badr al-Sankari to three years in jail for falsifying Lebanese identity cards as well as documents related to Palestinian refugees, judicial officials said. Al-Sankari, who is also known by his nom de guerre of Abu Hussein, confessed he was a Fatah Islam member and that he forged the documents in order to be able to enter and leave the Nahr el-Bared camp easily, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

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