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Syrian Jihadist Groups Take Conflict To Lebanon

Friday’s deadly clash in Arsal, Lebanon, signals a dangerous escalation in confrontations between the Lebanese Army and Sunni Jihadist groups connected to those fighting in Syria,  writes Jean Aziz from Beirut.
Lebanese soldiers carry the coffin of Sergeant Ibranim Zahraman during his funeral in the town of Akkar northern Lebanon February 2, 2013. Four Lebanese soldiers and two gunmen were killed in clashes in the country's Bekaa Valley on Friday after militants attacked a Lebanese army unit, security sources said. REUTERS/Stringer (LEBANON - Tags: CIVIL UNREST MILITARY POLITICS) - RTR3D9I8
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On Friday, Feb. 1, the Lebanese army lost two soldiers, a sergeant and a captain, who were part of a strike force unit that belonged to Lebanese Army Intelligence. The two soldiers died during a clash between the army unit and armed Sunni fundamentalists in ​​Arsal, which is near the Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley. That incident has many political and security dimensions and it confirms, as Al-Monitor has been reporting, that Jabhat al-Nusra is now in Lebanon and that the group’s activities are about to become public.

Lebanese military sources said that two days before the incident, the Intelligence Directorate of the Lebanese Army received information that Khalid Ahmed Hameed, who is wanted by the Lebanese judiciary, came to the town of Arsal from Syria, where a civil war has been raging for about two years. The sources said that Hameed is suspected of kidnapping seven Estonian citizens in the Bekaa on March 23, 2011, as they were riding from Syria to Lebanon on bicycles. There were held at an unknown destination for 111 days, before being released under mysterious circumstances as a result of secret negotiations between French security agencies and the intelligence arm of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, which is close to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

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