January 23, 2015 / 9:27 PM / 4 years ago

Five Lebanese soldiers killed in clashes with militants near Syria

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese troops repelled an attack by militants on an army outpost near the Syrian border on Friday but five soldiers were killed, the army said.

The fighting, near the village of Ras Balalbek in an area that has seen regular incursions from Islamist militants fighting in Syria’s war, lasted all day.

An army statement said five soldiers were killed. A Lebanese security official, who asked to remain anonymous, said nine militants had died.

It was not immediately clear which group the attackers belonged to but Syrian-based Islamist groups such as al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the hardline Islamic State have attacked Lebanon in recent months.

Ras Baalbek is near the town of Arsal, which Sunni Islamist militants attacked last August and seized a group of Lebanese soldiers. The militants have since killed some of the soldiers and about two dozen remain captive.

The militants are demanding the release of Islamists held by the authorities in exchange for them.

Lebanon’s security has been repeatedly jolted by the Syria conflict, which has also helped paralyze its government. The country has been without a head of state since May.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Oliver Holmes; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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