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Monday, September 27, 2004

Lebanon's Top Al Qaeda Operative Dies

Lebanon's Top al-Qaida Operative Dies.

Al-Khatib was one of two top operatives of al-Qaida's organization captured by Lebanese authorities Sept. 17 along with 10 other suspects. The other one was Ahmed Salim Mikati.

At the time of the arrest, Lebanon's top prosecutor called al-Khatib "the head of al-Qaida organization in Lebanon" and said he and Mikati were planning simultaneous bombings of the Italian and Ukrainian embassies in Beirut. Both countries are part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. They also allegedly planned to assassinate employees in Western embassies in Lebanon and wanted to attack Lebanese security and judicial targets.

Al-Khatib was also suspected of trying to recruit fundamentalists to carry out attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Mikati had been in contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who is the most wanted militant in Iraq, to arrange recruitment, officials said.

Shortly after news of al-Khatib's death spread, about 300 residents of his hometown of Majdal Anjar in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley staged a demonstration.

Protesters briefly blocked the highway linking the Lebanese capital of Beirut with Syria's capital, Damascus, near the Masnaa border point, witnesses said.

The demonstrators smashed windows of shops in the area, the witnesses said. Lebanese and Syrian troops deployed in the area and reopened the road late Monday.

Prosecutor-General Adnan Addoum said Mikati was behind other crimes in Lebanon, including an attack on a McDonald's restaurant in Beirut in April 2003, as well as attacks on U.S. and British interests last year. Mikati has been condemned to death in absentia by a Lebanese military court.

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