Score: Lebanese army liquidates would-be Zarqawi

They’re almost done mopping up the Fatah al-Islam jihadis in the refugee camp in Tripoli, three months after I first wrote about it. Yesterday’s take: 32 dead mujahedeen including the group’s leader, Shakir al-Abssi, who told the Times in March of his plans to hit America eventually. An idle boast? Maybe not:

A former associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia who was killed last summer, Mr. Abssi was sentenced to death in absentia along with Mr. Zarqawi in the 2002 assassination of an American diplomat in Jordan, Laurence Foley. Just four months after arriving here from Syria, Mr. Abssi has a militia that intelligence officials estimate at 150 men and an arsenal of explosives, rockets and even an antiaircraft gun…

[Lebanese intelligence] officials say they fear that he is seeking to establish himself as a terror leader on the order of Mr. Zarqawi. “He is trying to fill a void and do so in a high-profile manner that will attract the attention of supporters,” the American intelligence official said…

In a 90-minute interview, his first with Western reporters, Mr. Abssi said he shared Al Qaeda’s fundamentalist interpretation and endorsed the creation of a global Islamic nation. He said killing American soldiers in Iraq was no longer enough to convince the American public that its government should abandon what many Muslims view as a war against Islam.

“We have every legitimate right to do such acts, for isn’t it America that comes to our region and kills innocents and children?” Mr. Abssi said. “It is our right to hit them in their homes the same as they hit us in our homes.

Some analysts thought the rhetoric about AQ was a smokescreen to hide Abssi’s real patron: Syria, who may have sent him to Lebanon to cause trouble and further destabilize the Siniora government they’re trying to replace with their own puppets and Hezbollah. The alternative theory was that he really was an AQ protege who was part of the exodus of Sunni jihadis from an increasingly inhospitable Iraq into other unstable countries in the region. Either way, the Lebanese government had to send a message here. Took ’em long enough, but they sent it.

Rick Moran has more analysis. I’m worried that Abssi might have snuck out of the camp along with several other jihadis the Lebanese are now looking for but according to Naharnet by way of Rick, a mediator and Abssi’s own wife have already identified the body. Which shouldn’t have been too hard: the Times profile from March says he has two distinctive moles, one on either side of his nose. Stay tuned.