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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebanese Forces Strike Back Against Militants in Tripoli

TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- Lebanese forces engaged in heavy gunbattles with Islamic militants in Tripoli and a nearby Palestinian refugee camp Sunday, officials said, in the worst violence to hit the northern city in two decades.

At least seven Lebanese soldiers were killed outside the refugee camp, the military said.

Initial reports indicated that at least three militants died in the fighting, which involved tank and grenade fire.

Residents in the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp said at least 12 civilians were killed or wounded, but that figure could not be confirmed by Lebanese authorities.

The clash between army troops surrounding the Palestinian refugee camp and fighters from the Fatah Islam militant group began after a gunbattle raged in a neighborhood of nearby Tripoli, witnesses said.

The clashes in the camp began early morning, shortly after police raided a militant-occupied apartment on a major thoroughfare in Tripoli. Authorities said police were looking for suspects in a bank robbery a day earlier in Amyoun, a town southeast of Tripoli, in which gunmen made off with $125,000 in cash.

The armed militants resisted arrest and a gunbattle ensued. It spread to surrounding streets and continued through the afternoon.

Witnesses said the militants then seized Lebanese army positions at the entrance to the refugee camp, capturing two armored carriers.

The gunmen also opened fire on roads leading to the city and ambushed a military unit, killing two soldiers, security officials said.