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Lebanon's Army arrests militants after brief clash in Arsal

Lebanese soldiers atop armored personnel carrier stand at the entrance of Arsal, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

HERMEL, Lebanon: Two militants were arrested Friday after soldiers briefly clashed with gunmen on the outskirts of the northeastern border region of Arsal, the Army said.

According to the Army statement, soldiers spotted three militants on board a four-wheel drive Chevrolet in Wadi Hmeid, prompting an unit to pursue them.

Clashes ensued and while the Army was able to arrest two of the militants, identified as Lebanese Khaled Ammoun and Mohammad Ezzedine, a third gunman fled.

The military said the two arrested were in possession of two Kalashnikovs, a number of hand grenades and ammunition, as well as communication devices.

A security source told The Daily Star that the Army shot and killed the third militant who was identified as Rakan Ammoun.

Al-Manar Television said Ammoun was part of a terrorist ring tasked with rigging vehicles with explosives. He was allegedly behind one of the two car bombings in Harek Hreik, a neighborhood in Beirut's southern suburbs.

Residents in Arsal said they heard sounds of gun and mortar fire on the outskirts, a day after an Army unit was ambushed in Al-Rahwe, a remote border village in the region.

The minor clashes came hours after the Army said it had arrested a Lebanese citizen and two Syrians for their suspected involvement in the five-day deadly fighting between the military and gunmen from Syria that erupted on Aug. 2.

ISIS and Nusra Front fighters, who took part in the Arsal clashes earlier this month, are holding 29 soldiers and policemen captured during the fighting. The radical groups are demanding the release of militant detainees in Roumieh Prison in exchange for the captives.

Government officials said this week that thousands of gunmen have infiltrated the porous border between Lebanon and Syria, with Education Minister Elias Bou Saab saying that the country was at war with terrorism.

The Army has said it was in the process of verifying a video released by an ISIS fighter showing the beheading of one of the captive soldiers. Ali Sayyed is from the Akkar village of Fneideq where residents held a protest, urging the government to secure the release of the hostages.

 

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