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Key militant captured in Lebanon

September 16, 2007|From the Associated Press

BEIRUT — Lebanese troops captured the spokesman for an extremist group and three other militants Saturday, about two weeks after the army crushed the fighters in a Palestinian refugee camp, a military spokesman said.

The army defeated Fatah al Islam after a three-month siege. Lebanese troops have since combed areas around the Nahr el Bared camp for militants who may have escaped during a final breakout attempt Sept. 2 when more than 50 fighters were killed and two dozen captured.

The spokesman, Abu Salim Taha, was captured in the countryside near another Palestinian refugee camp, Bedawi.

A military spokesman, who requested anonymity until an official statement was issued, said that Taha was from a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, and that three other militants were captured with him.

An army statement said the other three men were from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia and that an investigation was underway.

Fatah al Islam set up base in Nahr el Bared late last year. Its leader, Shaker Abbsi, is a Palestinian linked to the late leader of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi. Authorities say Fatah al Islam is made up of Muslim militants of various nationalities.

Also Saturday, Abbsi's wife recanted on her claim that a body she had viewed in the hospital was that of her husband, court officials said. Authorities have said Abbsi fled the camp hours before the army took over and was believed to be at large.

Fatah al Islam's No. 2, Abu Hureira, was killed in a shootout with security forces in Tripoli near Nahr el Bared more than a month ago after he fled the army's siege of the camp. But none of the group's senior leaders are in custody.

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