January 23, 2015 / 4:23 PM / in 3 years

Lebanese army says soldiers and gunmen killed in clashes

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Fighting broke out between Lebanese troops and gunmen on Friday in an area that has seen repeated incursions by Islamist militants fighting in Syria’s war, the Lebanese army said in a statement.

It said a large number of gunmen had been killed and a number of soldiers but did not give figures. A Lebanese security official, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said nine gunmen and three soldiers had died.

The army said soldiers repelled an attack by militants on an army outpost close to the village of Ras Baalbek, near Lebanon’s eastern frontier with Syria.

“(The army) tightened its control this afternoon of the hill, expelling the terrorist elements ... (and killing) a large number. The fighting killed and wounded a number of soldiers,” it said.

It added it would name the dead soldiers in a later statement.

It was not immediately clear which group the attackers belonged to but Syria-based jihadist groups such as al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the ultra-hardline Islamic State have attacked Lebanon in recent months.

Ras Baalbek is near the town of Arsal, where Sunni Islamist militants staged a deadly incursion in August and seized a group of Lebanese soldiers. The militants have since killed some of the soldiers and around two dozen remain captive.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Oliver Holmes; Editing by Andrew Roche

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