Lebanon News

Militant ambush kills 6 soldiers in northeast Lebanon

A Lebanese Army checkpoint is seen in Ras Baalbek, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BAALBEK, Lebanon: Unidentified militants ambushed a Lebanese Army patrol in the country's restive northeast Tuesday, killing six soldiers and wounding one, the Army and security sources said.

According to an Army statement, a military unit was ambushed by a "terrorist group" in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek around 5:10 p.m. during a routine patrol.

The ensuing clashes between the Army and militants killed six soldiers and wounded one, the statement added. Militant casualties were not known.

Sources told The Daily Star said the patrol came under fire in the village of Tal al-Sayl on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek.

The troops attempted to communicate with central command in Ras Baalbek to inform them of the attack, but the communication was suddenly interrupted, sources said.

The affiliations of the militants were not immediately known. But the Lebanese Army has routinely clashed with jihadi militants from both the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and ISIS on the eastern and northeastern border.

Tuesday's ambush is the latest in a series of attacks on the Army by Islamist militants across the country.

The wounded soldier, who was transferred to a military hospital in Beirut, is suffering from moderate wounds after being hit in the back and the leg, a source said.

The sources said the Lebanese Army shelled areas near Tal al-Sayl where the militants are expected to be hiding.

The Army also used flares to illuminate the area as it searched for the militants.

The six fallen troops were transferred to the Ras Baalbek hospital, security sources added.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam called Army commander Jean Kahwagi to offer his condolences over the fallen soldiers, while expressing hope that the wounded would recover quickly.

Salam, who travelled to Brussels Monday on a two-day official visit where appealed for EU military assistance, also expressed solidarity with the Army, saying that all of Lebanon stands behind the military in its battle against terrorism.

The attack came after the arrest of one of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s wives, as well as the arrest of the wife of a Nusra Front commander.

News emerged Tuesday that Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, one of Baghdadi's wives, and their son, were arrested by the Army while trying to enter Lebanon from Syria more than a week ago using fake IDs.

Separately, Lebanese authorities also arrested the wife of Nusra Front Commander Anas Sharkas.

It was unclear if the attack came in response to the news of their arrests. But jihadi groups operating in Lebanon have typically responded to arrests of its members with attacks on Army targets.

The arrest of jihadi militant Ahmad Jomaa in August sparked five days of clashes between the Army and militants from the Nusra Front and ISIS in the northeast town of Arsal, which killed dozens.

Lebanon has been struggling to secure its 375 kilometer long border with Syria since the outbreak of the neighboring conflict nearly four years ago.

ISIS and the Nusra Front are still holding 26 Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive on the outskirts of Arsal.

Lebanon is still waiting on badly-needed foreign military aid, including two Saudi packages worth a combined amount of $4 billion.

France is scheduled to begin delivering military equipment financed by a $3 billion Saudi grant in the first quarter of next year.

Lebanon has constructed a dozen military watchtowers along its eastern border with Syria, including in Ras Baalbek, with the help of the United Kingdom.

 

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