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Lebanese Army Resumes Shelling of Islamic Militant Targets in Refugee Camp

22 May 2007

Lebanese troops are battling Islamic militants at a Palestinian refugee camp near the northern city of Tripoli for a third day.

After a brief overnight lull, the Lebanese army resumed tank and artillery fire at suspected positions of the Fatah al-Islam militants, who are believed to have ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Witnesses report there were many dead and wounded on the streets after the latest barrage

More than 75 people - soldiers, militants and civilians - have been killed since the fighting began on Sunday.

The militant group has also threatened to widen the battle outside the camp if the army did not stop the shelling.

In a statement sent to Western news agencies, the group claimed responsibility for two bomb blasts in Beirut over the past two days. However, the statement's authenticity could not be verified.

Lebanese police said six people were wounded in an explosion in a Muslim neighborhood (Verdun) of Beirut on Monday.

Earlier, one person was killed and 10 others were wounded in an explosion in a Christian sector of Beirut.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has called on all sides to protect civilians. He said, through a spokeswoman, the actions of the militant group, Fatah al-Islam, are an attack on Lebanon's stability and sovereignty.

In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said Lebanese security forces are working in a "legitimate manner" against what he called "violent extremists."

The battles on the outskirts of Tripoli are said to be the worst internal fighting since Lebanon's 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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