Lebanese group to be added to foreign terrorism blacklist

Sunday, August 12, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has blacklisted as a "foreign terrorist organization" a Lebanese Islamist group blamed for major fighting at a refugee camp.

The State Department is expected to announce the designation against al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam, which is suspected of having links with Syria, on Monday.

The designation imposes financial and travel restrictions on the group and its members, officials said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the designation is not yet public.

The officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed off on the decision to place the radical group on the international terror list on Friday. The sanctions took effect with her signature.

The U.S. designation of Fatah al-Islam will bring to 43 the number of groups on the blacklist, which already includes many of the world's most notorious terrorist organizations.

The designation freezes the assets of the group in U.S. jurisdictions, bars its members from U.S. soil and makes it illegal for U.S. citizens or those subject to U.S. laws to provide it with "material support or resources."

There was no immediate comment from Lebanese officials. Fatah al-Islam militants, who previously spoke to journalists by mobile phone, can no longer be reached.

The level of violence in Lebanon is the worst internal violence since its 1975-90 civil war, and has dragged on despite the Lebanese army besieging the camp to uproot the group.

The army has refused to halt its offensive until the militants completely surrender, but the gunmen have vowed to fight to the death.

On Wednesday, Fatah al-Islam said in a statement posted to a Web site that its No. 2 commander, Abu Hureira, had been killed in the clashes and celebrated the "martyrdom of a noble a noble brother," vowing to avenge his death.

The whereabouts Fatah Islam leader, Shaker Youssef Absi, are unknown.

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