BEIRUT - Two Lebanese soldiers were killed in fighting with Islamist militants overnight in the town of Arsal on the border with Syria and an eight-year-old girl was shot dead in clashes in a northern city, security sources said on Tuesday.

The fighting in Arsal in the north of the Bekaa Valley is the most serious spillover into Lebanon from Syria's civil war since that conflict began more than three years ago.

The clashes began on Saturday after security forces arrested an Islamist commander popular with local rebels who frequently use the porous border to move in and out of Syria. Shortly after the arrest, gunmen attacked security forces in the area.

At least 16 soldiers have been killed since then and sectarian tensions have flared in Lebanon, still recovering from its own 1975-90 civil war. An unknown number of civilians and militants have also died in the fighting.

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