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SYRIA: Islamist radicals admit to Damascus bombing

November 7, 2008 |  8:32 am

SyriafatahThe captured daughter of the head of an Al Qaeda-inspired group said her father received financial support from Saudi Arabian nationals as well as the main U.S.-backed Sunni Arab faction in Lebanon.

Wafa Abssi, daughter of the fugitive leader of Fatah al Islam, Shaker Abssi, was shown with other members of the radical Islamist group on Syrian state television Thursday confessing that they helped carry out a recent deadly attack in Damascus.

The Sept. 27 blast killed 17 people in a Shiite neighborhood of the Syrian capital and was the first such attack in decades to hit Syria.

Wafa Abssi, who wore a black headscarf, accused the Future Movement, the main Western-backed Lebanese Sunni political faction, of channeling funds to her father's militant group via a private bank.

In the summer of 2007, Fatah al Islam fought a fierce battle with the Lebanese military in a Palestinian refugee camp north of Lebanon. The clash claimed the lives of about 400 people, including Islamist fighters and soldiers. The group was blamed recently in Lebanon for recent bomb attacks against the Lebanese army.

Reports posted on the Syrian state news agency SANA said:

Wafa, daughter of Shaker Abssi, said that Fatah al-Islam Group is being supported financially by Saudi nationals who are members of the group.... She added that Tayyar al-Moustakbal [the Future Movement] supported the group financially and remits arrived from [Hariri-operated] Med-Bank continuously. She pointed out to the contacts of her father with Tayyar al-Moustakbal [the Future Movement] through certain channels.

Another member of the group, Abdel Baqi Hussein, a Syrian who identified himself as its security coordinator, said that the explosives used in the Damascus attack had been smuggled from Lebanon and that the suicide bomber was a Saudi citizen named Aisha.

Hussein said the group had planned to attack Syrian security offices as well as Italian and British diplomats.

Syrian television exhibited explosives and machine guns that were allegedly seized from the group by the Syrian security forces.

Lebanon's Western-backed political coalition, the March 14, reacted furiously today to the Syrian report.

The group said in a statement that Syria was trying to "avert responsibility for assassination crimes" in Lebanon. 

"The Syrian regime is strictly specialized in killing and terror to achieve political aims," the March 14 statement said.

News of the arrest of the Islamist group members might affect the recent renewal of talks between Lebanon and Syria about cooperation on security matters. The Lebanese daily newspaper Al Akhbar quoted a Lebanese security official as saying that Syria was probably urging Beirut to team up with Damascus on security matters.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: A snapshot from footage broadcasted by Syrian state television on Thursday evening showing a member of an Al Qaeda-inspired group confessing that he helped plan a recent deadly attack in Damascus. Credit: Syrian Arab News Agency

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