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Unprecedented Islamist recruitment
in Ain al-Hilweh, report says

Palestinian Fatah fighters in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp outside Sidon on March 22, 2008, following clashes between Islamic militants and Fatah. (AFP PHOTO / Mahmoud Zayat)

BEIRUT - Extremist Al-Qaeda-linked groups are recruiting scores of young men from Sidon’s Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp and training them, a newspaper report claimed.

 

“An unprecedented recruitment campaign, directly through chiefs of [Islamist] groups or via the internet,” is taking place in several neighborhoods of the refugee camp, “specifically in the Al-Taware’ quarter,” the report published Thursday in Al-Joumhouria daily explained.

 

It added that the young men are being recruited either for the Al-Nusra Front or for the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, both of which are connected to Al-Qaeda.

 

“The number of members of these groups has exceeded 120, and they are now present in the Al-Taware’ neighborhood, headed by Haitham and Mohammad al-Shaabi, in the Al-Safsaf quarter under Oussama al-Shahabi, in the Al-Manshiyyeh area, headed by Toufic Taha, and in the Al-Tayra neighborhood under the command of Bilal Badr,” the newspaper detailed.

 

It went on to note that “70 members of the Takfiri movements entered the camp just last week.”

 

“Unusual activity can be seen nightly at the Ain al-Helweh camp; members of these groups carry out complete armed deployments, the latest of which saw 80 masked men take to the streets.”

 

The report also “confirmed” that Fadl Shaker is currently present in the Al-Taware’ neighborhood and is “running a group of youngsters.”

 

Supporters of radical Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir have asserted that he left the camp nearly a month ago, and is currently in the Al-Nabak area of the Syrian border town of Qalamoun.

 

Assir and his followers, the most prominent of which is “penitent singer” Fadl Shaker, clashed in June with the Lebanese Armed Forces in Sidon, killing 18 soldiers.

 

Assir and Shaker have been on the run ever since, with constant speculation as to their whereabouts.

Palestinian Fatah fighters in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp outside Sidon on March 22, 2008, following clashes between Islamic militants and Fatah. (AFP PHOTO / Mahmoud Zayat)

Unusual activity can be seen nightly at the Ain al-Helweh camp.