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Lebanese Army Pounds Militants in Refugee Camp

08 June 2007

The Lebanese army has again battled Fatah al-Islam militants holed up inside a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli.

Troops resumed artillery and tank fire on the al-Qaida-inspired militants in the Nahr al-Bared camp early Friday. Militants responded with machine gun fire and anti-tank rockets.

Clouds of smoke billowed over the camp.

More than 100 people, including soldiers, militants and civilians, have been killed since fighting erupted almost three weeks ago.

The militants have repeatedly refused government demands to surrender, and have vowed to fight to the death.

Thousands of refugees have fled the camp, although some still remain inside.

There have been several bombings in and around Beirut since the start of the fighting.

On Thursday, an explosion in a factory caused a large fire in a Christian area north of Beirut, killing one civilian and injuring at least three others.

Earlier Thursday, authorities found three vehicles rigged with explosives in the town of Bar Elias, in the Bekaa Valley east of the Lebanese capital.

In other news, France has invited Lebanese political and civil society leaders to a meeting to discuss the future of Lebanon. The French foreign ministry says the meeting could take place in late June.

The pro-Western Lebanese government has been locked in a political power struggle with the pro-Syrian Shi'ite militant group, Hezbollah.

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

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