Monday, May 21, 2007
Scores dead as Lebanese army battles Islamists in bloodiest day since civil war
By Robert Fisk
".......So here are a few facts. A group of armed men tried to rob a Tripoli bank on Saturday and got cornered in an apartment block. Others holed up in the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp north of the city. When I arrived yesterday, army tank fire was bursting in the camp and black-hooded policemen were preparing to storm, Iraqi-style, into the city-centre building. But the robbers were said to have stolen only $1,500. Was that worth this massacre? And is "Fatah al-Islaam" - which has existed in the shadows of the camp for months - really a 300-strong armed group?.....
Well, Mr Siniora claimed it was an attempt to destabilise Lebanon - a good guess, to put it mildly - and Saad Hariri, son of the former prime minister murdered here more than two years ago, called the armed men "evil-doers who had hijacked Islam". This is the same Saad Hariri whom at least one American reporter - I refer to Seymour Hersh - suggested was indirectly helping to funnel Saudi money to these same gunmen in a recent article in The New Yorker. The Shia Muslim Hizbollah are supposed to be the bad guys in this scenario, not a Sunni group.
But Tripoli is the most powerful Sunni city in Lebanon - so powerful that not a drop of alcohol wets its restaurant tables - and the men and women running in terror across Tripoli's streets yesterday were also Sunnis. So are the Syrians really concocting an "al-Qaida" in Lebanon? And who are its enemies? The Nato army of the UN force in southern Lebanon, perhaps? But surely not the Lebanese army, the very same army which bravely prevented civil war last January? Yet in 2000, an al-Qaida-type group also ambushed the Lebanese army in northern Lebanon. Was this, too, supposed to be a Syrian invention?......"