Islamist group behind bombings


Summary

Meanwhile fighting has erupted between Lebanese troops and Islamist militiamen around a Palestinian refugee camp on the third day of fierce fighting that has killed dozens of people.

Black plumes of smoke billowed into the sky as troops fired tank shells and artillery at positions of Fatah al-Islam, a shadowy Sunni militant group accused of links to Al-Qaeda whose members are entrenched in the Nahr Al-Bared camp near the Mediterranean coast.

It is the bloodiest internal feuding in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war and has triggered deep concerns about the security of a country still battling sectarian division and a months-old political crisis.

The resumption of fighting shattered an overnight lull and followed indirect negotiations to try to hammer out a ceasefire amid mounting fears of a humanitarian crisis for people trapped inside Nahr al-Bared.

"The Lebanese army is ready to stop firing if the other side does the same. It will not open fire if it is not attacked," a government source said on Monday.

But a spokesman for Fatah al-Islam said the ball was in the Lebanese army's court.

"If the army continues its attacks, our fighters are ready to fight until the last drop of blood," Abu Salim Taha told reporters.

A total of 58 people have been killed in the fighting unleashed early Sunday around the camp and the nearby Mediterranean port city of Tripoli. Hospital sources said 30 soldiers, 17 Islamist fighters, 10 Palestinian civilians and a Lebanese civilian have died.

Aid organisations have voiced fears of a humanitarian crisis in the camp, a coastal shantytown of narrow alleyways is home to about 31,000 of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.

Save The Children said the situation for non-combatants was "deteriorating rapidly" while residents are battling a lack of electricity and water shortages.

Doctors described seeing bodies strewn on the streets of Nahr al-Bared, which like all refugee camps in Lebanon remains outside the control of the government and in the hands of Palestinian factions.

The international community has condemned the violence and voiced support for the Lebanese government's efforts to restore order.

But Syria saw the turmoil as a bid to prod the UN Security Council into setting up the international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, for which Damascus has been widely blamed.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari also denied any ties between Damascus and Fatah al-Islam.

On Monday, a security official said that among the dead Islamists were Saddam Hajj Dib who was wanted over a plot to blow up trains in Germany last July.

Officials from the main Palestinian factions — which deny any links with Fatah al-Islam — offered to help crush the militants in talks with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Siniora, whose Western-backed government has been paralysed for months by feuding between opponents of former power broker Damascus and pro-Syrian factions, has said the government is determined to enforce law and order.


Meanwhile fighting has erupted between Lebanese troops and Islamist militiamen around a Palestinian refugee camp on the third day of fierce fighting that has killed dozens of people.

Black plumes of smoke billowed into the sky as troops fired tank shells and artillery at positions of Fatah al-Islam, a shadowy Sunni militant group accused of links to Al-Qaeda whose members are entrenched in the Nahr Al-Bared camp near the Mediterranean coast.

It is the bloodiest internal feuding in Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war and has triggered deep concerns about the security of a country still battling sectarian division and a months-old political crisis.

The resumption of fighting shattered an overnight lull and followed indirect negotiations to try to hammer out a ceasefire amid mounting fears of a humanitarian crisis for people trapped inside Nahr al-Bared.

"The Lebanese army is ready to stop firing if the other side does the same. It will not open fire if it is not attacked," a government source said on Monday.

But a spokesman for Fatah al-Islam said the ball was in the Lebanese army's court.

"If the army continues its attacks, our fighters are ready to fight until the last drop of blood," Abu Salim Taha told reporters.

A total of 58 people have been killed in the fighting unleashed early Sunday around the camp and the nearby Mediterranean port city of Tripoli. Hospital sources said 30 soldiers, 17 Islamist fighters, 10 Palestinian civilians and a Lebanese civilian have died.

Aid organisations have voiced fears of a humanitarian crisis in the camp, a coastal shantytown of narrow alleyways is home to about 31,000 of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.

Save The Children said the situation for non-combatants was "deteriorating rapidly" while residents are battling a lack of electricity and water shortages.

Doctors described seeing bodies strewn on the streets of Nahr al-Bared, which like all refugee camps in Lebanon remains outside the control of the government and in the hands of Palestinian factions.

The international community has condemned the violence and voiced support for the Lebanese government's efforts to restore order.

But Syria saw the turmoil as a bid to prod the UN Security Council into setting up the international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, for which Damascus has been widely blamed.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari also denied any ties between Damascus and Fatah al-Islam.

On Monday, a security official said that among the dead Islamists were Saddam Hajj Dib who was wanted over a plot to blow up trains in Germany last July.

Officials from the main Palestinian factions — which deny any links with Fatah al-Islam — offered to help crush the militants in talks with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

Siniora, whose Western-backed government has been paralysed for months by feuding between opponents of former power broker Damascus and pro-Syrian factions, has said the government is determined to enforce law and order.