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Lebanon Battles Syria Militants Along Border

  • VOA News

Lebanese army reinforcements arrive to the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2014.

Lebanese army reinforcements arrive to the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug. 4, 2014.

Lebanese troops are battling Islamic militants near the Syrian border in a third day of fierce clashes — the worst spillover of violence since Syria's civil war broke out three years ago.

Lebanon's army reported Monday that at least 16 of its soldiers have been killed in the fighting that erupted in the town of Arsal, while another 22 are missing. It said that advancing soldiers have found the bodies of 50 militants.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Hundreds of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees crammed into cars and pickup trucks during a relative lull in the fighting in the early morning hours to flee Arsal. But intense fighting soon resumed.

The fighting erupted Saturday after the rebels were angered by the Lebanese detention of a Syrian, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who is believed to be a member of al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front. It is one of the most powerful groups fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Lebanese army warned of the seriousness of fighting and vowed to keep the Syrian conflict from spreading into its much-smaller country.

The U.S. State Department strongly condemned the rebels' attack.

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam called the raid an attack against Lebanon and its people.

Salam says his government will not tolerate chaos and let matters get out of control. He says the army is working to restore security and stability in the Arsal region.

Violence stemming from the fighting in Syria often spills over into Lebanon.

Lebanese-based Hezbollah extremists have fought alongside Syrian government forces against the rebels trying to topple the Assad government.

Some information in this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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