Lebanon´s most wanted Islamist terrorist ´killed planting bombs for Syrian rebels´ (TELEGRAPH UK) By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut and Richard Spencer in Cairo 04/25/12)
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Abdel-Ghani Jawhar, Lebanon´s most wanted militant Islamist
terrorist, has been killed while planting bombs for the rebel
movement in Syria, raising fresh concerns about the growing influence
of radicals in the opposition to the Assad regime.
Jawhar was said by security sources quoted in the Lebanese media to
have been killed in Qusayr, near the embattled city of Homs.
According to one report, he blew himself up when a bomb he was
preparing detonated prematurely.
He was the head of Fatah-al-Islam, a militant group that had fought
the official Lebanese army and other militias. It is alleged to have
loose ties with al-Qaeda, and is certainly part of a wider network of
militant Sunni groups whose involvement in the Syrian opposition has
alarmed not only potential western backers but also the opposition
“They are growing quickly, it’s true,” Bassma Kodmani, principal
spokesman of the Syrian National Council, told The Daily Telegraph.
She said groups of fighters from outside the country were coming in
with “a different agenda”.
Jawhar, believed to be in his 30s, originally joined the Muslim
Brotherhood but became progressively more radical, becoming leader of
Fatah-al-Islam two years ago. An expert bomb-maker, he was said to
have masterminded attacks on both the Lebanese army and United
A second leader, Walid Boustani, who escaped from prison in Lebanon
in 2010 and also went to Syria, is said to have been killed by
members of the Free Syrian Army after an argument.
Qusayr has been bombarded by the Syrian regime’s forces for months,
but half remains under rebel control, despite a major tank assault
which was beaten off last Thursday.
Although the FSA, which answers to the Syrian National Council, is
largely a mixture of defectors and local residents without political
affiliation, some semi-independent units have been formed of more
radical Islamists, including the Farouq Battalion, which operates in
Homs and Qusayr.
These have been increasingly accused of persecuting residents in
pursuit of a religious agenda beyond the uprising’s goal of unseating
the regime. On occasion it is overtly sectarian – targeting the non-
Sunni, Alawite minority from which the Assad family comes.
One Sunni businessman, who called himself “Abu Salah”, said he had
fled Homs with his family after members of the Farouq battalion beat
him for not attending Friday prayers at the local mosque, or protests
“Three times men with long beards came to my house,” he said. “One
said to me: ’The people running the country are Alawites, they have
no religion. Why don’t you come and join your Sunni brothers?’ He was
holding a machine gun. When I told him I did not want to be part of
it, three men beat me.”
Abu Salah said he had noticed a change in the sermons preached in the
Old City where he lived.
“I was brought up a moderate Muslim. Now many of the mosques are
Salafi. Some of the speeches I heard called for Syria to be an
The regime has claimed the rebels are “terrorists”, blaming bombings
in Damascus and Aleppo on al-Qaeda. Opposition groups claim the
bombings were the work of Syrian intelligence, designed to discredit
them, and that the regime is turning a blind eye to foreign jihadists
entering the country for the same reason.
A bomb in Damascus yesterday injured three people, while three
security officers were killed, all in apparent defiance of the
current ceasefire. On Monday, scores of civilians in Hama were killed
in an assault by regime forces, apparently in retaliation for
protests made in the presence of ceasefire monitors.
There is little doubt that the Islamist presence – from the more
moderate Muslim Brotherhood to radical Salafis – has grown as the
uprising has dragged on. Probably only a small minority among the
Islamists are aligned to the wider, al-Qaeda-led militant agenda, but
even leaving that minority aside the presence of Salafis and other
radical elements threatens the emergence of the pluralistic democracy
demanded by the opposition’s leaders.
Sheikh Hashem Minkara, a Salafi leader in northern Lebanon, said he
knew followers were crossing to fight ’jihad’ in Syria. “I had a lot
of people come to me and tell me they want to go to fight in Syria. I
know for sure there is money. The family of FSA fighters from here
are being given $330 per month.”
Mrs Kodmani said that there was a difference between “home-grown”
Islamists who the SNC was trying to ensure remained subject to their
control, and foreign fighters.
She said that without efforts to unify the opposition, such groups
would play a bigger role.
From Homs, a prominent activist, Waled al-Fares, issued his own
warning: “If the world’s countries leave us and don’t care about us,
we will ask all fighting Arabs to enter Syria.” (© Copyright of
Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012. 04/25/12)
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