By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanese troops raided an Islamic militant hideout in a hillside cave and killed six fighters Thursday as violence spread from a Palestinian refugee camp where the military has been battling an al-Qaida-inspired group.
Lebanese soldiers and Red Cross workers carry the body of an Islamic militant who was killed in a clash with the army that occurred in the wilderness near the village of Qalamoun, some 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon Thursday, June 28, 2007. Lebanese troops killed six Islamic militants during a gun battle in a northern Lebanon town on Thursday, a military official said. (AP Photo)
The dawn gunbattle â€” a 20-minute drive from the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian camp by the northern port city of Tripoli â€” underscored the challenges the army faces in crushing the Fatah Islam militants.
It also indicated Fatah Islam may have found allies among Sunni militants and fundamentalists in the region who were not affiliated with the group.
The fighting at Nahr el-Bared has become the worst internal violence since Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war, and is believed to have claimed the lives of more than 160 people, including 84 soldiers, at least 60 militants and more than 20 civilians.
Fighting first began five weeks ago in Tripoli, a largely Sunni city. Then, it shifted to the Nahr el-Bared camp, after the militants barricaded themselves inside it.
Last weekend, it moved back to Tripoli, and on Thursday to the hills near Qalamoun, 3 miles south of the city.
Troops, backed by helicopters, descended on a Fatah Islam hideout obscured by dense growth in the hills above the Mediterranean coastline. The military said a number of soldiers were slightly wounded in the clashes.
The army was apparently tipped about the hideout by residents of a nearby village who had spotted strangers in the area.
An army said a unit pursuing militants in the area clashed with “a group of terrorists” barricaded inside a cave.
* Interesting. The army calls them ‘terrorists’- the MSM turns them into ‘militants’
“The force eliminated all six members of the group, seizing a quantity of arms and ammunition,” it said. The six were of different nationalities, the army said but did not identify them.