Ten men and a woman alleged to be Fatah al-Islam militants confessed in videos broadcast on Syrian state TV to carrying out the September 27 car bombing that killed 17 people and wounded 14 others near a Shia shrine in southern Damascus.
Television reports Thursday night said that the woman broadcast was Wafa al-Abssi, the daughter of Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker al-Abssi, who has been a fugitive since escaping security forces in Lebanon after the militant group’s 15-week battle with the Lebanese army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in 2007 that left 400 people dead, including 168 soldiers.
AFP reported that Wafa al-Abssi said Fatah al-Islam received money from Salafist groups backed by Saudi Arabia, and Abu Ritaj and Abu Youssef as-Saudi specifically. She also accused Lebanon’s Future Movement and some of its banks of involvement in financing the group.
According to AFP, one of the men featured on television was introduced as the militant group’s head of security, spokesperson and Abssi’s number two, Syrian Abdul Baqi al-Hussein Fatah al-Islam, who said the aim of the September attack was to "harm the regime in Syria."
Hussein said that the man directly responsible for carrying out the attack was a Saudi called Abu Aisha, who was killed in the bombing.
The group also planned to attack security offices in Syria and to target an Italian and a British diplomat, he added.
AP reported Hussein also said Abu Mohammad Awad had been picked as the group’s leader and a successor to Abssi. Awad was based in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in South Lebanon, he added.
The men interviewed claimed they had carried out a series of armed robberies to finance the September attack and that the car used in the bombing had been stolen from an Iraqi. AFP reported that the men also said they had planned to attack Syrian security posts, British and Italian diplomats and the country's central bank.
In response to the accusations of the Future Movement funding Fatah al-Islam, MP Boutros Harb told the Voice of Lebanon radio station on Friday that the objective behind Thursday’s broadcast was to disfigure the image of the March 14 alliance before the parliamentary elections in 2009, because, he said, Syria was the ally of the March 8 coalition.
“Let us not forget the aid offered by the Future Movement to the Lebanese army during its battle with the extremist group Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared,” he said.
According to An-Nahar, March 14 leaders consulted each other on Thursday night following the news breaking, and are scheduled to meet formally on Friday for further discussions.