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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 June 2007, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Troops die in Lebanon camp clash
Smoke rises from the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (23 June 2007)
Much of Nahr al-Bared has been destroyed during the fighting
Four Lebanese soldiers have been killed in fighting with Islamist militants in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.

A bomb killed three soldiers and a sniper shot dead another.

The army responded by shelling the militants, from the Fatah al-Islam group, who have been besieged at the camp for more than a month.

It is the second day of clashes since the Lebanese minister of defence declared the Islamist rebels defeated.

Defence Minister Elias Murr said on Thursday that leaders of Fatah al-Islam at the camp were on the run.

Mr Murr had told Lebanese TV the army had "crushed those terrorists", but that Lebanese troops were continuing their siege amid sporadic shelling and gunfire.

A month of fighting has left more than 170 people dead, in Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 civil war.

'In hiding'

Nahr al-Bared, near the northern city of Tripoli, was home to 31,000 people before the fighting broke out. Approximately 2,000 refugees are still believed to be inside the camp.

FATAH AL-ISLAM
Split from Palestinian group Fatah al-Intifada in late 2006
Believed to have 150-200 armed men, based in Nahr al-Bared camp
Denies al-Qaeda links but says it endorses its ideas
Has links with Syrian intelligence, Lebanon says
Leader is Shaker al-Abssi

Large parts of the camp have been left in ruins after a bitter struggle that began in late May when the Lebanese army tried to arrest a number of alleged members of Fatah al-Islam.

Lebanon has 12 refugee camps housing more than 350,000 Palestinians, many of whom fled or were forced to leave their homes when Israel was created in 1948.

There is a long-standing convention that Lebanon's army does not go into the camps, leaving security inside to militant groups.

The Lebanese government believes Fatah al-Islam is backed by Syrian intelligence, a claim Syria denies.

Syria has closed a border crossing in the north-east of Lebanon for "security" reasons.

Damascus closed two other crossings when fighting first broke out in the camp, also for safety reasons. Only the Masnaa crossing remains open.


SEE ALSO
Gun battles flare at Lebanon camp
11 Jun 07 |  Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon's new flashpoint
23 May 07 |  Middle East
Profile: Fatah al-Islam
21 May 07 |  Middle East
Timeline: Lebanon
04 Jun 07 |  Country profiles



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