Heavy clashes erupt in Lebanese camp

Renewed fighting comes hours after soldier dies of wounds sustained Monday.

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May 29, 2007 21:18
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Heavy clashes erupted Tuesday between Lebanese troops and Fatah Islam militants in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon - the sharpest escalation after a weeklong truce. Sporadic gunfire exchanges have continued daily since the truce halted three days of heavy fighting. But the renewed fighting before sundown, with the Lebanese army using artillery to silence the militants' source of fire, was the worst outbreak in violence in a week. Lebanese army artillery pounded positions on the northern edge of the camp and near the Mediterranean coastline, apparently seeking to prevent any attempt by some militants to flee by sea. The renewed fighting came hours after a soldier was killed. The soldier was hit in the head by sniper fire Monday afternoon and later died in hospital, said security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. In Beirut, a man suspected of belonging to Fatah Islam was arrested after police raided the apartment where he was staying in a posh furnished building in Ashrafieh, a Christian neighborhood in the heart of the Lebanese capital. Police officials said the man had rented the place using a forged Lebanese name and passport and had in his possession several other forged passports from Gulf and other foreign countries. They said police also confiscated from the apartment several CDs and other material that appeared to be related to the group's work. Also Tuesday, a woman died from gunshot wounds when a car she was riding in ignored orders to stop at a police checkpoint in Beirut, officials said. The woman, identified as the wife of the car driver, was shot in the abdomen and died later in hospital. The driver, wanted on several warrants, sped off but police gave chase, firing warning shots. He was arrested after abandoning the car and fleeing into a building. On Monday, troops killed two people and injured a passer-by after a car sped past their checkpoint outside the Beirut international airport. The passer-by died in hospital Tuesday, officials said. The tensions in Beirut in central Lebanon came as clashes continued in the north. Interior Minister Hassan Sabei, urged the public in a statement to cooperate with security forces "in this critical period." The soldier's death brings to 31 the number of government troops killed in the fighting since May 20. Most military casualties occurred on the first day, when the army were ambushed on roads or attacked at their posts by the previously little known al-Qaida inspired group.


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