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3 Lebanese soldiers killed in 'ambush': army

By AFP

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A member of the Lebanese forces works near a burnt out vehicle at the site of a car bomb that targeted a checkpoint in Hermel, killing at least two soldiers and a civilian, in this file photo from February 23rd, 2014. The attack was claimed by al-Nusra Front. [AFP PHOTO/STR]

Three Lebanese soldiers were killed and two others wounded Sunday (February 9th) in the north-east region of Hermel near the border with Syria, as they pursued a stolen vehicle, the army said.

The soldiers had been giving chase to the stolen vehicle when they were "ambushed and came under fire" in the area of al-Mesherfeh.

In an initial statement, the army said two soldiers had been shot dead, but later reported that a third had succumbed to his wounds.

The three soldiers have since been identified by Lebanese media outlets as Ali Ismail, Ahmed Haidar Ahmed and Hasan Ezzeddine.

The army said one gunman also had been killed, and the driver of the vehicle had been arrested.

The circumstances around the incident remain unclear.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab condemned the ambush, saying an attack on the army is an attack on all Lebanese.

"What is required at this moment is to speed up the arrest of the attackers," he said in a statement carried by the National News Agency.

In the wake of the attack, Lebanese MP Gebran Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, has urged an end to arms proliferation in the country, Lebanon's Naharnet reported.

"We express all support for the army and security forces to implement a decisive security plan," Bassil said.

Lebanese religious leaders took a unified stance in condemning the attack.

"This horrific crime against the army affected all Lebanese who believe in the military institution, in maintaining security and stability in the country," Grand Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian said in a statement.

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