4 troops killed in Lebanon clashes

But military official claims army expanding control, closing in on militants.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Four Lebanese soldiers were killed as Lebanese troops on Wednesday battled militants inside a northern Palestinian refugee camp, a senior military official said. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorizes to talk to the media, said the army was making advances in the refugee camp that has been the scene of heavy clashes with the Fatah Islam militants for the past two months. "The army is expanding its area of control and is closing in on remaining militants fighting in certain pockets of the Nahr el-Bared camp," he told The Associated Press. The four soldiers were killed overnight, he said, raising to 107 the army's fatalities since fighting broke out nearly two months ago in the Palestinian camp near the northern port city of Tripoli. The official also said the military was in the "final stages of having full control" of the main road separating the new camp and the so-called "old camp" sections of Nahr el-Bared. The term old camp refers to densely populated neighborhoods where most of the Palestinian refugees lived and where most of remaining fighters were thought to be still barricaded. Meanwhile, Fatah Islam fighters fired five Katyusha rockets that landed in a village about seven kilometers from the camp. Two more rockets landed near the main highway in the nearby town of Minyeh. No casualties were reported in either attack. Occasional gunfire and the impact of rocket-propelled grenades could be heard from inside the camp Wednesday, suggesting that the militants continued to resist the army. On Tuesday, security officials said troops had made "significant progress" in the battle against Fatah Islam fighters who were now encircled in an area no bigger than 500 square meters. The conflict with Fatah Islam militants, which erupted May 20, is Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war. At least 60 militants and more than 20 civilians have been killed in the fighting, according to the Lebanese government and UN relief officials.