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Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lebanese American Community Mourns Loss of George Abu Karam, Victim of Continental Commuter Plane Crash Near Buffalo, New York

(BUFFALO, NY)...The Associated Press is reporting today that George Abu Karam was one of 50 people killed when a Continental Airlines plane crashed on Thursday in Clarence, New York. The plane plunged into a house just five miles short of its planned landing at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Abu Karam, of Tiberias, Israel, had been a member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), founded and led by Major Saad Haddad originally as the Free Lebanon Army - a breakaway force of about 2,500 mostly Christian men who split from the Lebanese Army in 1976. In March 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon to clear out Palestinian guerrilla strongholds, after a bloody raid by Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists. On April 18, 1979, in the wake of Israel’s withdrawal, Haddad proclaimed the area controlled by his force 'Independent Free Lebanon'. The following day, he was branded a traitor to the Lebanese government and officially dismissed from the Lebanese Army. The Free Lebanon Army was renamed the SLA in May 1980 and established a dominion in the region up to the Litani River to prevent further PLO incursions. SLA soldiers were mostly Christian but also included Lebanese Druze and Shiites. Haddad, a Greek Catholic Christian, was born and raised in the Lebanese village of Marjeyoun and received his military training in part at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA.
As Lebanon’s military disintegrated along sectarian lines in the early years of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, Haddad sought to establish a military force in south Lebanon who's sole objectives was to defeat the PLO in his country. Sadly, Haddad died of cancer at his home in Marjeyoun on Jan. 14, 1984. His wife, Theresa, and six daughters, were at his side. Antoine Lahd, a retired high ranking officer in the Lebanese Army was appointed Commander of the SLA at the request of former President Camille Chamoun, and replaced Haddad following his untimely death. Fromer SLA member George Abu Karam was flying to Buffalo last Thursday to visit his cousin. Abu Karam first arrived in the lakeside city of Tiberias in 2000, when Israeli troops pulled out of south Lebanon and many SLA men fled after them, fearing retribution if they stayed behind, a friend, Aviv Omer, told Israel Radio. "You could say that he didn't just fit in, he led," Omer told the radio station. "He was always surrounded by friends, always smiling. He had presence. He was a big man. He worked as a security guard after the SLA. He always tried to look tough and project confidence, but inside he had a heart as soft as butter, a heart of gold." Oded Zafti, the owner of a bar that employed Abu Karam as a security guard, told the newspaper Haaretz: "He was a man with a good soul, enterprising and devoted." Laizer Labkovski, a rabbi with the Chabad movement in Buffalo, said Abu Karam's cousin was at the airport to pick up Abu Karam when he learned of the crash.

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">