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NOW/AFP

Lebanese army enters
Arsal after jihadist clashes

An LAF tank outside Arsal. (AFP PHOTO)

BEIRUT - Lebanese troops have started to enter the town of Arsal on the Syrian border, after days of clashes with jihadists there, a military source told AFP on Friday.

 

"We have started to enter, we've set up a checkpoint on the western side of the city, and we're advancing bit-by-bit," the source said.

 

"We haven't entered all of the town yet, so we can't say if the gunmen have completely withdrawn," he added.

 

Municipal council member Wafiq Khalaf confirmed that troops were entering the edge of the town, but had not yet spread throughout.

 

"They are entering from the outskirts, the situation is quiet. There is no shooting or fighting," he told AFP.

 

Later Friday the Lebanese Armed Forces Command said in a statement that army units "have continued to reinforce their deployment in Arsal and its surroundings, where they stationed this morning on the hilltops and highlands overlooking the town from the west side."

The army added that it has "set up a checkpoint at the town's western entrance, at the intersection between the Technical School and the clinic."

 

The army advance comes after a truce that saw many of the jihadists who had entered the town withdraw to the surrounding mountains.

 

The militants, from several jihadist groups fighting in Syria, attacked army and police posts in the area in eastern Lebanon on Saturday afternoon after the arrest of a man accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch Al-Nusra Front.

 

A group of Sunni clerics negotiated a truce under which the militants were to withdraw and release some 19 soldiers and 17 policemen who were taken hostage during the fighting.

An LAF tank outside Arsal. (AFP PHOTO)

We have started to enter, we've set up a checkpoint on the western side of the city, and we're advancing bit-by-bit.