Following days of speculation and conflicting reports, Lebanon-based Islamist group Fatah al-Islam has announced that its leader had been "captured or killed" by Syrian forces and named his successor, according to a U.S. intelligence monitoring service.
The group said Shaker al-Abssi and two other members of its group were ambushed in Syria while trying to link up with other Islamic militants from Iraq and Afghanistan, SITE Intelligence Group Monitoring Service reported.
The three were either captured or killed in the ensuing gunfight with members of the Syrian security forces, said the statement.
Abu Mohamad Awad had been named to succeed Abssi at the head of Fatah al-Islam, said the group.
SITE said the statement, the authenticity of which has still not been confirmed, was posted on an Islamic militant website on Monday.
Conflicting reports have been circulating in the Arab media for over a week concerning the wanted Abssi. Al-Liwaa daily reported earlier this month that he may have headed to Turkey to live with a Lebanese extremist known as Abu Bakr Aqida.The paper added that Abssi was last seen "last week in what is known as the Taware neighborhood of the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp in Sidon," Lebanon.
But An-Nahar newspaper said that another militant group, Osbat al-Ansar, had played a role alongside a leading Palestinian figure in hiding Abssi and his aides. It said Lebanese security forces have confirmed information that Abssi was still inside Ain al-Helweh, according to Lebanon's English newspaper The Daily Star.
Fatah al-Islam fought a fierce three-month battle with the Lebanese army last year in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, which left some 400 people dead, including 168 soldiers.
In November, Fatah al-Islam reportedly claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in Damascus that left 17 dead in September.