Lebanese troops are battling Islamic militants near the Syrian border in a third day of fierce clashes – the worst spillover of violence since Syria’s civil war broke out three years ago.
Lebanon’s army reported Monday that at least 16 of its soldiers have been killed in the fighting that erupted in the town of Arsal, while another 22 are missing. It said that advancing soldiers have found the bodies of 50 militants.
Hundreds of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees crammed into cars and pickup trucks during a relative lull in the fighting in the early morning hours to flee Arsal. But intense fighting soon resumed.
The fighting erupted Saturday after the rebels were angered by the Lebanese detention of a Syrian, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who is believed to be a member of al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front. It is one of the most powerful groups fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Lebanese army warned of the seriousness of fighting and vowed to keep the Syrian conflict from spreading into its much-smaller country.