February 1, 2013 5:14 pm

Six dead as Lebanon army clashes with gunmen

Four Lebanese soldiers and two gunmen were killed during clashes in the country’s northern Bekaa Valley on Friday after militants attacked a Lebanese army unit, security sources said.

The sources said fighting was continuing in the area, near the northeastern town of Arsal, a region close to the border with Syria where rebels are fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Residents said the clash broke out after the army entered the area to arrest a suspected member of the hardline anti-Assad Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra, who was believed to travel frequently between Lebanon and Syria.

Syrian rebels have hidden and regrouped in towns and villages on the mountainous Lebanese side of the poorly demarcated border during the revolt, which started with peaceful protests but turned violence after a crackdown.

Syria’s army has lobbed mortars over the border and even crossed into its smaller neighbour to fight rebels. Syrian troops have also shot civilian refugees fleeing violence.

The civil war in Syria has divided Lebanon, with some Sunni Muslim groups calling for supporting the majority-Sunni uprising against Mr Assad’s minority rule. Other factions say Lebanon should stay out of the crisis.

Rebel fighters have clashes in the past with the Lebanese army, which has historical ties to Damascus.

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