Seven Lebanese soldiers among 14 killed


Tripoli (Lebanon) : At least 14 people were killed Sunday, half of them Lebanese soldiers, in clashes with fundamentalist Palestinian militants at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon, Lebanese security sources said.

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The sources said four militants and at least three civilians were also killed inside the Naher al-Bard refugee camp, located close to the Lebanese port city of Tripoli and home to 30,000 refugees.

"There are a number of civilians killed and wounded inside the camp, but no ambulances can enter the camp to transfer them," said a Palestinian source from inside the camp, adding that at least 30 people were wounded.

Soldiers were shot in an ambush by militants of the fledgling fundamentalist Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam on a road close to the camp, a Lebanese army source said.

The source said the militants were sniping at Lebanese army troops and vehicles from rooftops on the outskirts of the camp.

The head of the Lebanese security forces General Ashraf Rifi confirmed that seven soldiers were killed and at least seven policemen wounded, one critically.

Roads leading to the port city of Tripoli were closed by the army and the sounds of automatic weapons fire and explosions echoed across the city.

Sources inside the camp said that the Lebanese army had shelled positions manned inside the camp by Fatah al-Islam, which is believed to have links with Syria and with the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Lebanese army troops backed by tanks and armoured personnel carriers were seen heading towards the area.

However, the Lebanese army cannot enter Palestinian refugee camps under the 38-year-old Cairo agreement, which states that security inside the camps is in the hands of Palestinian forces.