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3 Lebanese soldiers die amid battle with Islamic militants

June 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

BEIRUT — Three Lebanese soldiers were killed when fierce fighting erupted Monday at a Palestinian refugee camp as Lebanese troops resumed bombardment of militants barricaded inside, a senior military official said.

Troops backed by heavy artillery and tank fire blasted suspected hide-outs of the Fatah al Islam militants in the Nahr el Bared camp on the outskirts of Tripoli, as the battle against the militants entered its fifth week, witnesses said.

The senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make official statements, declined to give details on how the three soldiers were killed. The official also said an undetermined number of soldiers were wounded.

Meanwhile, in southern Lebanon, an explosion killed two people at Ein el Hilwa, Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, as members of another Islamic militant group tried to prepare a bomb, Lebanese security officials said.

Three others were wounded in the late-afternoon blast, which ripped through a tire shop in the camp.

Among those reported lightly injured was a leader of the Jund al Sham militant group, Shehadeh Jawhar.

The fighting at Nahr el Bared has claimed more than 150 lives -- 72 soldiers, at least 60 Fatah al Islam militants and more than 20 civilians -- since May 20.

Most of the camp's 31,000 residents have fled since the fighting began, but the International Committee of the Red Cross has said that between 3,000 and 6,000 civilians remain there.

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