At least two army troops were killed and several others wounded in an armed attack Saturday on a military vehicle in the Akkar area of al-Mhammara, which was followed by clashes with gunmen “loyal to Sheikh Khaled Hoblos” and a failed attempt to abduct five soldiers.
In a separate incident, gunmen fired “a rocket-propelled grenade against an army vehicle in the northern area of Minieh near the Haroun mosque, which resulted in the death of an officer and the wounding of two troops,” the army said in a statement.
Later on Saturday, the Army Command announced the names of an officer and five troops killed in the clashes in Minieh and the northern city of Tripoli.
It identified them as First Lieutenant Firas Mahmoud al-Hakim, Sergeant Mohammed Ali Noon, the soldiers Ahmed Saeed Asaad and Mohammed Ali Yassine, and the conscripts Abbas Haidar Ibrahim and Jaafar Ali Asaad.
The state-run National News Agency had earlier reported that unknown assailants opened fire at a military vehicle near the Lobnan al-Akhdar bakery on the Bhannine-Mhammara road.
The army for its part said its troops clashed with “an armed group that tried to cut off the public road, which prompted army forces to reopen the road and chase the militants who fled to the nearby groves.”
The gunfight left two soldiers dead and several others wounded, according to the army statement.
Troops managed to inflict casualties on the attackers, the military added.
Meanwhile, NNA said “a military helicopter transferred one of the wounded soldiers from the al-Youssef Medical Center in Halba to Beirut due to his critical condition.”
The army seized control of “the bridge at the entrance to the town of Bhannine,” NNA added.
The Akkar-Tripoli road was also closed at al-Mhammara's intersection to “preserve the safety of civilian passersby, as military helicopters hovered over the area,” the agency said.
In another statement, the army said its forces foiled “an attempt by an armed group to kidnap five troops who were heading to their service positions in the Akkar area of al-Mhammara.”
Army forces “chased the gunmen and clashed with them, wounding several militants,” the army added.
Later on Saturday, LBCI TV said "a group led by Sheikh Khaled Hoblos was behind the attack on the army on the Mhammara-Bhannine road and the sounds of gunfire and shelling are being heard from a nearby hill."
It said the army raided Hoblos' house and seized "weapons and RPGs."
"Gunmen opened fire at the army from a prayer room adjacent to Hoblos' house and two militants have been killed in the clashes," LBCI added.
Later on Saturday, NNA said army forces were imposing a tight cordon around the Haroun mosque in Bhannine, “where Sheikh Khaled Hoblos and his terrorist group have holed up.”
“Army helicopters opened fire at gunmen loyal to Hoblos who shot at the aircraft,” NNA said.
“Intermittent clashes involving the use of machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades are taking part in the vicinity of the Haroun mosque,” it added.
Meanwhile, Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) said two army helicopters targeted the armed groups in the vicinity of the Haroun mosque in Bhannine "all the way to Minieh and Nahr al-Bared's outskirts."
And Future TV said army helicopters were "making intensive flights over Akkar's towns and villages."
An army statement said several gunmen were killed and wounded in al-Mhammara and the northern city of Tripoli as troops seized full control of the fighting flashpoints.
A number of militants fled the areas of the clashes, “leaving behind quantities of arms, ammunition and military equipment,” the army added.
The attacks came amid violent clashes between the army and gunmen in the nearby northern city of Tripoli, where two civilians and two gunmen were killed and around 20 troops and civilians were wounded.
For the past few months, the military has been coming under increasing armed attacks, mainly in northern Lebanon.
Since August, the Lebanese army has been fighting militants from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front on Lebanon's northeastern border with Syria.
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