BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The Lebanese military took control Sunday of a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon after fighting with Islamist militants who tried to flee, the government announced Sunday.
Clashes between militants and Lebanese troops at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp have left scores dead.
"We overcame all those terrorists who were willing to destroy our country," Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said in a televised address to the nation.
"This is an hour of pride and happiness."
A Lebanese Army source said 37 militants were killed and an unknown number were captured in clashes at the Nahr el-Bared camp outside Tripoli.
Two soldiers were killed in the fray, bringing to 155 the number of troops killed since May 20, when the standoff with the militants began.
"At dawn, militants of Fatah al-Islam attacked army positions in a desperate attempt to escape from Nahr el-Bared camp," a military statement said Sunday. "The Lebanese army confronted the militants and killed and captured a large number of them."
Political sources close to the military said in late June that as many as 40 fighters from the militant group may have still been in the camp's center. Government officials said the group has ties to the al Qaeda terrorist organization.
Local Arab news media reported Sunday that Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker al-Absi was among the militants who fled, but the army said they could not confirm that.
In the past, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr has said he wants al-Absi "dead or alive."
On Saturday, Lebanese troops seized control of the house belonging to Abu Hureira -- al-Absi's deputy commander, Lebanese military officials said.
Events at the refugee camp have marked the country's worst internal violence since the end of Lebanon's civil war in 1990.
Sunday's operation came three days after the chief of U.S. forces in the Middle East, in a landmark move, landed in Lebanon for talks with the prime minister and senior military officers.
Adm. William Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, met with Siniora and Lebanese military chiefs to offer counterterrorism training for Lebanon's military, among other objectives, U.S. military officials told CNN.
The Bush administration has supplied the Lebanese army with ammunition, body armor and night-vision goggles during its three-month battle with Fatah al-Islam militants. E-mail to a friend
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed|