Friday, September 07, 2007

DNA tests on body thought to be Abssi's come back negative

DNA tests on body thought to be Abssi's come back negative
Army captures seven militants, kills one as celebrations go on

By Rym Ghazal
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army continued on Thursday to hunt down fleeing members of Fatah al-Islam, killing one and capturing seven within the vicinity of the battered Northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared as DNA tests came back negative for a body earlier identified as that of Shaker al-Abssi-leader of the group. "The army is continuing its operation of hunting down the remaining fugitives and clearing up the camp of booby-traps and mines," an army source told The Daily Star. According to the National News agency, one militant was killed and three others were arrested following clashes in Abdeh north of Nahr al-Bared. It said another two Fatah al-Islam militants were captured after a chase in Wadi Jamous. The army source added that another two members of Fatah al-Islam were hiding in abandoned farm houses in the green fields near the camp. A woman called Umm Ali and her son, reportedly help capture two members of the militant group who were hiding in their garden in the Al-Rai area outside Babneen village. Umm Ali and her son fought the two men - Talal al-Saaili and Mobarak al-Qarbi, both described as being from the Gulf - until the security forces arrived and arrested them. Security sources said that among the seven captured, three of the men reportedly had Asian features and did not carry identification papers, two of them were from the Gulf and one was from Algeria. Lebanese troops also began erecting barbed wire around Nahr al-Bared to prevent anyone from leaving or entering. "We do not want anyone to enter the camp, whether civilian or journalist, until it has been completely cleared and deemed safe," said the army source.

Local media reported that the first round of DNA testing on the body identified by Abssi's wife and several other witnesses as Abssi gave negative results, as the sample from the body did not not match that of Abssi's daughter. "The army has no comment on the DNA result, that is up to the judiciary [to comment on]," the army source said. Judicial sources told The Daily Star that a second round of DNA tests will take place, with an official request to have the matching done against Abssi's brother in Jordan as there is speculation as to whether Abssi's real daughter was the one sent for the testing. The sources said that while the wife and several scholars from the Palestine Scholars Association (PSA) identified the corpse at the public hospital in the Northern city of Tripoli as that of Abssi, there were other witnesses who said it is not him. Sheikh Ali Youssef, a PSA member, said Thursday that his group had not yet received any official DNA result. "I was shocked at the news that preceded the final results," Youssef told Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation's "Naharkom Saeed" talk show. An-Nahar newspaper said Thursday that the death of Fatah al-Islam spokesman Abu Salim Taha has not been confirmed. Youssef backed up An-Nahar's report, saying that Abu Taha's fate remains unknown after his wife, who went to a Tripoli morgue to identify him, said that the corpse was not her husband.

At the same time, head of the army, General Michel Suleiman, met with US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffery Feltman, but neither official made any statement to the media after the meeting. Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss called for an investigation into the Nahr al-Bared incident, and those responsible for the group and how they operated. "Many questions need to be answered ... who dragged the army into this war? Who knew what was going on there,?" he said in a statement on Thursday. Al-Hayat published a report on Thursday detailing the connection between Fatah al-Islam and Al-Qaeda, with several Saudi members of Al-Qaeda being based in Tripoli and had met with the slain military commander of Fatah al-Islam, Abu Huriera. The army's victory after three grueling months of fighting the Al-Qaeda-inspired militants of Fatah al-Islam has been met with almost daily celebrations. To further continue the joyous mood, there will be a large-scale rally in honor of the army staged in Jounieh on September 22, with reports of other scheduled celebrations to take place later this month.

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