Lebanese army ambushed after Ersal bomb wounds three soldiers

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, November 14, 2014

Updated at 4:18 pm (GMT +2): A Lebanese army unit was ambushed on the outskirts of Ersal, the military said Friday, shortly after a roadside bomb wounded three soldiers near the flashpoint town on the border with Syria.

In a statement, the army said unidentified gunmen on the outskirts of the northeastern town opened fire at an army unit, prompting soldiers to fire back and pursue the gunmen.

The incident followed a road-side bomb that targeted a military vehicle on Raayan-Wadi Aata road on the outskirts of Ersal.

"At around 9:00 am an explosive device hit a military vehicle as it was patrolling around the town of Ersal. The device was planted on the side of the road," it said in a statement.

A lieutenant colonel, a sergeant and a soldier of the Army's Fifth Intervention Regiment were injured, according to National News Agency (NNA).

Syria's al-Qaeda branch, al-Nusra Front, accused Hezbollah, a Lebanese resistance movement, of being behind the attacks, claiming that "two Hezbollah members" were allegedly seen "planting the bomb."

Later on Friday, the Lebanese army dismantled two explosive devices found near the town.

"Lebanese army units successfully dismantled two explosive devices," a security source told Anadolu news agency.

"The devices were found in the same area where another explosive device had gone off near a military patrol earlier today," the army source said.

In August, Ersal saw a fierce battle pitting the army against jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and Nusra, who streamed in from Syria across the Lebanese border.

Violence in Ersal left 16 soldiers dead and 85 wounded, while dozens of jihadists are said to have been killed, along with three civilians.

Fighting ended with a truce mediated by local clerics, but the jihadists took with them 30 Lebanese army and police hostages. Three have since been executed, and Qatari-mediated efforts to free the rest have so far yielded no concrete result.

Three months after the fighting in Ersal, Lebanese troops fought deadly clashes in October with the Islamist militants, in the northern city of Tripoli. The fighting left 42 people dead, including 11 soldiers and eight civilians.

Since then, the army intensified its crackdown on suspected militants across north Lebanon, arresting hundreds in wide-scale raids.

On Thursday, the Lebanese army arrested two "fugitive terrorists” who are suspected of leading two different armed groups during clashes in Tripoli last month.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Anadolu)

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