Civilians die in Lebanon clash


Summary

Lebanese troops have been shelling Islamic militants in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon and fighting new gun battles in country's north.

It came after fierce fighting between Lebanese troops and militants left 40 dead in northern Lebanon, while an explosion in Beirut killed at least one woman and wounded 10 others.

The government has vowed to do whatever it takes to restore order and crush the Fatah al-Islam group, which has alleged links to al-Qaeda.

The army said the fighting was triggered when the militants staged an attack on a military post outside Nahr al-Bared, home to about 22,000 refugees.

It said 23 soldiers were killed in the deadliest fighting between security forces and Islamists since 2000, while 15 gunmen were killed, 10 of them in Tripoli.

Lebanon sent in heavy troop reinforcements to contain the battles involving anti-tank rockets and cannons which erupted at dawn in Tripoli and around Nahr al-Bared.

Australians urged to leave

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs has upgraded its travel advice for the Tripoli area in the north of the country following the escalation in violence.

DFAT is urging Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Lebanon, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks and kidnapping of Westerners.

Last year the government helped evacuate thousands of Australians caught in Lebanon during fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

Explosion rocks Beirut

The blast in Beirut was the first bombing in the city since January, killing a 63-year-old woman was killed and wounding 10 people in the Christian quarter of Achrafie.

The FSI officer did not rule out the possibility that the explosion had been caused by a device left in a parking lot near a major shopping centre.

Several cars were also destroyed in the blast, which blew out windows of nearby residential buildings and damaged the entrance to the shopping centre's parking garage.

Government orders crackdown

After an emergency meeting with security chiefs, the cabinet authorised the army to "take all necessary measures to restore order."

Four wounded Palestinians were evacuated from Nahr al-Bared, a Red Crescent spokesman said, adding that there were more casualties still inside the camp.

"The blows dealt by Fatah al-Islam against the Lebanese army are a premeditated crime and a dangerous attempt to destabilise (Lebanon)," said Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

His Western-backed government has been paralysed for months by an acute political crisis.

Syria, the former power broker in Lebanon, announced it had closed two border posts into its smaller neighbour because of the violence.

Lebanese authorities have accused Fatah al-Islam, a splinter group said to be ideologically close to Osama bin Laden's network, of working for the Syrian intelligence services, which Damascus has denied.


Lebanese troops have been shelling Islamic militants in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon and fighting new gun battles in country's north.

It came after fierce fighting between Lebanese troops and militants left 40 dead in northern Lebanon, while an explosion in Beirut killed at least one woman and wounded 10 others.

The government has vowed to do whatever it takes to restore order and crush the Fatah al-Islam group, which has alleged links to al-Qaeda.

The army said the fighting was triggered when the militants staged an attack on a military post outside Nahr al-Bared, home to about 22,000 refugees.

It said 23 soldiers were killed in the deadliest fighting between security forces and Islamists since 2000, while 15 gunmen were killed, 10 of them in Tripoli.

Lebanon sent in heavy troop reinforcements to contain the battles involving anti-tank rockets and cannons which erupted at dawn in Tripoli and around Nahr al-Bared.

Australians urged to leave

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs has upgraded its travel advice for the Tripoli area in the north of the country following the escalation in violence.

DFAT is urging Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Lebanon, warning of the potential for terrorist attacks and kidnapping of Westerners.

Last year the government helped evacuate thousands of Australians caught in Lebanon during fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

Explosion rocks Beirut

The blast in Beirut was the first bombing in the city since January, killing a 63-year-old woman was killed and wounding 10 people in the Christian quarter of Achrafie.

The FSI officer did not rule out the possibility that the explosion had been caused by a device left in a parking lot near a major shopping centre.

Several cars were also destroyed in the blast, which blew out windows of nearby residential buildings and damaged the entrance to the shopping centre's parking garage.

Government orders crackdown

After an emergency meeting with security chiefs, the cabinet authorised the army to "take all necessary measures to restore order."

Four wounded Palestinians were evacuated from Nahr al-Bared, a Red Crescent spokesman said, adding that there were more casualties still inside the camp.

"The blows dealt by Fatah al-Islam against the Lebanese army are a premeditated crime and a dangerous attempt to destabilise (Lebanon)," said Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

His Western-backed government has been paralysed for months by an acute political crisis.

Syria, the former power broker in Lebanon, announced it had closed two border posts into its smaller neighbour because of the violence.

Lebanese authorities have accused Fatah al-Islam, a splinter group said to be ideologically close to Osama bin Laden's network, of working for the Syrian intelligence services, which Damascus has denied.