Lebanese army clashes with outlaw group
Lebanon, Local, 1/3/2000
The Lebanese army has completed mopping-up operations in Dinnieh area in northern Lebanon and arrested several gunmen.
The director of the guidance department in the leadership of the Lebanese Army, Col. Elias Farhat, said the mopping up operation has been concentrated at the present on the gunmen who fled within smaller groups of two or three members into the valleys and woods.
Col. Farhat indicated that an armed group entered today at dawn a house in the outskirts of Kafer Habbou area, opening fire, and the Lebanese army retaliated for the gunfire.
He stressed that Kafer Habbou town is now under the control of the Lebanese Army and that five gunmen were arrested.
He indicated that the Lebanese Army is chasing small groups in Marbatah town following news reports that these small groups had fled to it.
Col. Farhat stated that there is no battle in al-Dinnieh area, rather a chasing for the gunmen after attacks in the surroundings of al-Najas and al-Arb'een mountains.
He stressed that several gunmen were killed in the confrontations that took place in the past two days and that four were killed, as well as an unknown number of gunmen who were killed at the battlefield. He added that so far some 45 gunmen have been arrested.
Giving more details on the events that took place in the last two days in north Lebanon, Col. Farhat said, "The decision adopted by the leadership of the Lebanese Army is to refuse any sort of mediation and is persistent to chase the gunmen until they are arrested," adding that, "There is no way for expanding the area of tension and the fanatic gunmen are few in number and are not popular, socially and religiously speaking."
Col. Farhat, also announced the postponement of the field tour scheduled to be held by his directorate for the media men on the positions which witnessed the fighting in the al-Dinnieh area due to the cautious situation prevailing the highway from Tripoli to the area in Marbatah and Kafer Habbou areas which witnessed today at dawn the presence of several gunmen who belong to the fanatic al-Hijra and al-Takfir group.
Col. Farhat accompanied journalists later in the day on a tour of the confrontation's site said that four Lebanese soldiers were killed in today's confrontation in Marbataha, south of Dinnieh.
The gunmen had entered Kfar Habbou village in the Marbatah area and seized its people and clashed with the army forces who besieged them.
According to assertions made by people of the area, the Lebanese Army on Sunday had continued imposing a cordon on a mountainous area to which 150 armed extremist Sunnis had resorted in northern Lebanon.
A Lebanese security source said that 15 extremists were killed in the confrontations which erupted on Friday.
The Lebanese Army announced the killing of four of its members while Lebanese medical sources announced that one civilian was killed and five were wounded.
The extremists, whom the Lebanese Army stressed belong to the Wahabi Hijra and al-Takfir group, had resorted to the mountainous caves in the al-Dheneyh hill which overlooks the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, 1,100 meters above sea level.
The Lebanese Army, which had sent reinforcements to the region, cut off the supply line for the armed men and established barriers on the roads leading to the hill.
Citizens from Seer al-Dhenyeh town, the largest town in the region, said that the hill is full of mountainous routes which link it to al-Qurna al-Souda summit, the highest summit in Lebanon, 3,080 meters above sea level.
In news reports which were not officially confirmed, the citizens said that the army was preparing to launch an attack taking into account the good weather, while the Lebanese weather forecasting center expected snowfall within 48 hours.
The citizens added that the extremists were holding one Lebanese Army lieutenant and one soldier, a matter which may delay the attack. The Lebanese army had earlier announced that an army officer and a soldier had disappeared.
Confrontations started after a Lebanese Army patrol was ambushed by the extremists on Friday.
Earlier on Saturday, the Lebanese Army announced that four soldiers were killed and other two were lost in an ambush installed by extremists from the Sunni community on Friday in al-Dhenyeh region in northern Lebanon.
A statement released by the guidance directorate at the Lebanese Army leadership announced the death of four soldiers and loss of an army officer and another soldier in an ambush carried out by an extremist group linked to the Wahabi Takfir and migration group in the surroundings of Asoun town, 40 km northeast of the Lebanese city of Tripoli of a Lebanese military unit while carrying out ordinary patrols in al-Dhenyeh area following reports on the existence of the extremist elements in that area.
According to the same source the Lebanese Army on Saturday morning arrested several armed men and confiscated weapons and ammunition after attacking and then occupying the building of the dissolved al-Hedayah and al-Ihsan (charity) society radio in Asoun.
The statement stressed that the army cordoned the whole of al-Dhenyeh area following the ambush and that the army forces are following the gunmen in the region in order to arrest them.
On Friday the Lebanese security forces reported that the confrontation resulted in tens of killing and wounding in the line of the extremists who are equipped with machine-guns, mortars and RBJ rockets.
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