Wife of Islamist leader insists he is dead

The wife of Fateh Al Islam chief Shaker Abssi has insisted that her husband is dead and that a body she viewed at a morgue was his, despite DNA tests that have proved otherwise.“I am telling you that the body I saw was that of my husband,” Rashdiyeh Abssi told the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera in a telephone interview late on Monday.

“I recognised him from wounds on his face and his chin,” she added.

Lebanon’s attorney general on Monday said DNA tests on the body of a man thought to be Abssi had proved negative and that the Fateh Al Islam chief may have escaped from the Nahr Al Bared refugee camp, which was the scene of a bloody 15-week standoff between the army and gunmen.

The DNA tests were carried out on Abssi’s wife and five of her children, as well as a brother of Abssi in Jordan, proving the body in the morgue could not that of the Fateh Al Islam chief.

Abssi’s wife was evacuated from the camp along with several other women and children last month and has been staying in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon.

She said authorities had not summoned her for further tests or to view the body again.

“All I know is that I saw his dead body and I was sure it was that of my husband,” she told Al Jazeera.

Troops have launched intensive search operations around the seafront camp of Nahr Al Bared since the battle ended on September 2 with a desperate breakout attempt in which dozens of fighters and several soldiers were killed.

The army has said that in all it had killed at least 222 armed men and lost 163 troops during the siege.

Abssi, a Palestinian who first emerged in the camp late last year, is a veteran of wars against the West ranging from Africa to Latin America.

His background includes a stint as a former MiG fighter pilot who flew sorties for Libya against French-backed troops in Chad before training airmen for the anti-US Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

In addition to being hunted by Lebanese troops, Abssi is wanted by both Syria and Jordan for radical activities, including the 2002 assassination of a US diplomat in Amman.

Syrian authorities threw him in prison in 2002 for three years for belonging to a banned Islamist group and for plotting attacks.

Meanwhile, three Lebanese soldiers were wounded yesterday while clearing mines littering the camp.

“While the army continued to clear Nahr Al Bared from explosives, a mine blew up, wounding three soldiers including one seriously,” a military source said.

Since the army seized the camp on September 2, soldiers have been clearing mines and booby-traps left over by the Islamist fighters. Troops were also conducting intensive searches in areas surrounding Nahr Al Bared on the lookout for fugitives.

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