General Jean Kahwaji said another 24 soldiers, including 4 Officers, had been wounded in the fighting and that 13 others were thought to be missing.
Reuters quoted a doctor who works at a field hospital in Asral as saying that 10 civilians were killed, including refugees hit by shelling in the area. Arsal, a border town with Syria, hosts a significant number of Syrian refugees who have fled from the war in their country.
The clashes erupted after Islamists seized a police station following the arrest of one of their leaders on Saturday, Reuters news agency said, in an attack that Kahwaji said was “premeditated.”
“This terrorist attack that occurred yesterday [Saturday] was not an attack by chance or coincidence. It was planned previously, a long time ago, waiting for the appropriate time, which was during the last 48 hours,” Kahwaji added.
He said the arrested Commander had admitted to planning a large attack against army positions.
Reuters quoted security officials as saying that the gunmen included fighters linked to the Nusra Front as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement Saturday condemning the attack by Al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda linked group fighting in Syria, while urging all “parties in Lebanon to respect the Lebanese government’s policy of dissociation from regional conflicts, as stated in the Ba’abda Declaration.”
“The United States is committed to Lebanon’s security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We will continue our strong support for Lebanon’s state institutions, including the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF), as they work to preserve and protect a stable, sovereign, and secure Lebanon,” the statement added.
Arsal is a predominantly Sunni town hosting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and has supported the Sunni-led uprising against Assad.
The area has been the scene of frequent tensions with Lebanese Security Forces, as well as air raids and shelling by Syrian troops across the border who say they are targeting rebel forces holed up in the mountainous region.
Al-Nusra Front has been fighting against the Syrian government forces along with other rebel groups.
Source: AFP; Reuters – Photo: AP