At least six Lebanese, including five soldiers, were killed Friday and 10 others wounded in clashes between the army and gunmen in a northeastern town near the border with Syria, according to Lebanese media.
A police official and the state-run news agency reported at least three Lebanese soldiers killed and five wounded in a gunfight near the town of Arsal. A security official later told Agence France Presse that at least five Lebanese soldiers were among six people killed between unidentified gunmen and the army.
The official said the gunmen ambushed an army intelligence unit in Arsal where it went to arrest a fugitive. He declined to give further details and spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The National News Agency said the fugitive, Khaled Hamid, is suspected of being involved in last year’s kidnapping of seven Estonian tourists. They were abducted in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley and held for nearly four months before being released in July.
It was unclear if Friday’s clashes were related to the civil war in Syria. Deadly street clashes between pro- and anti-Syrians in Lebanon related to the civil war in Syria have erupted on several occasions in Lebanon, adding to the country’s own sectarian tensions.
A senior Lebanese army officer said clashes were under way with gunmen in the area, but did not disclose further details.
Residents of Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town, are known to be sympathetic to the Syrian opposition fighting to topple President Bashar Assad next door, and arms smuggling into Syria is widespread in the area.
Since the armed uprising against Assad began, the town has become a sanctuary for war-weary Syrian rebels, a way station for wounded fighters and home to hundreds of Syrian refugee families.