BEIRUT (Reuters) - Three Lebanese soldiers have been killed fighting Islamist militants who have been battling the army for more than three months in north Lebanon, security sources said on Sunday.
The three were killed on Saturday in clashes with al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam fighters who have been holed up in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp near the northern city of Tripoli, the sources said.
Two more soldiers were killed on Friday when battle resumed after an evacuation of the militants’ wives and children who had been sheltering in the largely destroyed camp.
The army has now lost 148 soldiers since May 20 when the fighting erupted. It is Lebanon’s worst internal fighting since the 1975-1990 civil war.
At least 100 militants and 42 civilians have also been killed in the fighting. Most of Nahr al-Bared’s 40,000 residents fled to a nearby Palestinian camp early on in the battle.
The army has demanded an unconditional surrender by Fatah al-Islam, which it accuses of triggering the violence by attacking army positions.
Fatah al-Islam split from a Syrian-backed Palestinian faction last year. It says it shares al Qaeda’s ideology but has no organisational ties to the network.
The prosecutor-general last week charged 107 detainees with membership of the group. Most were Lebanese and Palestinians but they also included Saudis, Syrians, a Tunisian and an Algerian.
Another 119 are wanted on the same charges, including 38 Saudis and 11 Syrians.
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