Day By Day

Sunday, September 02, 2007

One For the [Sorta] Good Guys

Reuters reports:

Lebanese troops on Sunday seized control of a Palestinian refugee camp where they had been battling militants for more than three months, killing at least 31 fleeing fighters, security sources said.

Thirty-four more fighters from the Fatah al-Islam group were captured, 23 inside the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. Most were wounded, a security source said.

"The battle is over. The Lebanese army has seized the last positions of Fatah al-Islam in the camp," a senior security source told Reuters.

"Most of the terrorists were killed today. The others have been captured. A few might have escaped but the army is hunting them down," the source added.

The fate of Shaker al-Abssi, the group's Palestinian leader, was unclear.

The fighting has been Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war, killing more than 300 people.

Read it here.

It's been a long grind for a small win, but it is significant. Fatah al-Islam is an al Qaeda affiliate and its destruction is a blow to the larger terrorist network. What is more, an external attack launched by Islamist radicals on the Lebanese forces in an attempt to break the Fatah fighters out of the trap failed miserably. So, in that sense this was a double win for the army. Finally, the Palestinian residents of the camp clearly welcomed the army's win and the restoration of Lebanese control to their city. The Islamists seem to be wearing out their welcome wherever they appear, and that (in the words of a famous criminal mastermind) is "a good thing."


The involvement of local residents seems to have been the deciding factor in the siege.

MOHAMMARA, Lebanon - Desperate to escape a three-month army siege, a group of Al-Qaida-inspired militants sneaked through a tunnel below their refugee camp base and launched a surprise dawn attack on soldiers.

Local residents fed up with the violence grabbed guns and sticks to help the soldiers defeat the militants. Mohammed Khodor Najib, a 65-year-old resident of Mohammara, a farming community next to the camp, said he shot one with a hunting rifle.

"I found one of them hiding in my garden," he said. "I hit him and handed him over to the army."

Read it here.

Sounds a lot like Anbar province. The tide may be turning. Maybe. Let's hope it is.