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French Version


Army death toll tops 100 as battle at Nahr al-Bared intensifies

Militants fire more rockets, mortars at areas around camp

Four Lebanese soldiers were killed on Monday as the army pounded away at remaining hideouts of the besieged militants in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.

The fighting in Nahr al-Bared has claimed the lives of 101 soldiers since the onset of fighting on May 20 when the Islamist militants ambushed soldiers posted outside the camp.

At least 80 militants and 40 civilians have also been killed in what is being labelled as the worse internal violence since Lebanon's 1975-1990 Civil War.

The army released the names of two of those soldiers killed: Sergeant Edward George Khattar, born in 1981, and Corporal Mustafa Khoudr al-Shami, born in 1986, were killed on Monday as the army stepped up its assault on the camp.

Witnesses said that the army was using armored bulldozers and other vehicles to push its way into the camp, part of its declared strategy to tighten the noose around the militants.

The vehicles are also used as a precaution against booby-traps that have killed several soldiers.

The army has reported major progress in its battle against the gunmen since Saturday, raising Lebanese flags on buildings seized from the Islamists in the battered camp.

Meanwhile, Fatah al-Islam militants fired at least five Katyusha rockets and mortar shells that landed in areas outside the camp, causing damage but no casualties, the state-run National News Agency reported Monday. One of the rockets landed near a school about three kilometers from the camp, but failed to explode, it said.

The militants also unleashed volleys of rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire at army positions surrounding the camp. No casualties or injuries were immediately reported.

The NNA also reported that the army destroyed a number of rocket launchers and hideouts used by the gunmen to attack troops and that the army killed three snipers overnight.

The government has vowed to eradicate Fatah al-Islam, a shadowy gang which first surfaced in the camp late last year and includes extremists of various Arab nationalities.

Judicial sources told The Daily Star five more people were arrested on Monday in connection with Fatah al-Islam, four of them Lebanese and one Palestinian.

At the same time, the Saudi Okaz newspaper said Monday that three of the Saudi nationals arrested over links to Fatah al-Islam will be returned to Saudi Arabia for further interrogation.

Beirut 17-07-2007
Redaction
The Daily Star



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