Two members of Lebanese security forces killed in armed clashes

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two members of the Lebanese Security Forces were killed in an exchange of gunfire with militants in the north of the country late on Saturday, the army said.

They were killed when militants opened fire on an army checkpoint in the northwest area of Araman, the army said on Sunday. One militant was killed, while several fled.

In a separate incident on Saturday, Lebanese security forces killed at least six militants during a heavy exchange of fire with an armed group in northeast Lebanon, close to the Syrian border, security sources said.

Three members of the Lebanese security forces were wounded in the clash, which began after Lebanese forces raided a house in the Wadi Khaled area, where the group that was suspected of planning attacks was holed up, the sources said.

Security incidents across the country have increased in recent weeks, as the country has been pushed to breaking point by a financial meltdown and a political vacuum following the resignation of the caretaker government over an Aug. 4 port blast, which left nearly 200 people dead.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab strongly condemned the attacks in a statement on Sunday, and called for the feuding political blocs to rapidly form a new government capable of addressing Lebanon’s myriad problems.

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The country is on edge amid fears violence could escalate and compound the country’s crises.

Sources told Reuters that the group in Wadi Khaled included Syrians and Lebanese, adding that the scale of the clash, in which militants fired rocket-propelled grenades, prompted the Lebanese army to cordon off the area.

The sources said the group included people linked to the militant Khaled al-Talawi who was killed this month in a shootout with security forces.

Talawi was described as a former member of Islamic State and leader of a cell behind the killing in August of three people in north Lebanon.

Writing by Edmund Blair and Raya Jalabi; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie