Lebanese army contractor killed by Palestinian militants

A Lebanese army civil contractor was killed Tuesday in a shootout with Palestinian militants in southeastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, a Lebanese security official said.

The contractor, Mohammed Ismail, was accompanying a Lebanese army patrol along the Syrian-Lebanese border when they clashed with Palestinian guerrillas in the remote village of Helweh, a few kilometers from the Syrian border.

The militants were from the pro-Syrian radical Fatah Uprising group and were spotted training at their base in Helweh before the attack, said the official, who declined to be identified because he was unauthorized to speak to the media.

The militants opened fire on the patrol and a clash with machine-guns ensued, during which Ismail was seriously wounded.

The official and the state-run National News Agency said Ismail died from his wounds at hospital. No other details were immediately available.

Fatah Uprising, one of several Damascus-based radical Palestinian factions with bases in Lebanon, broke with the mainstream Palestinian Fatah faction in 1983 and is led by Col. Saeed Moussa, better known as Abu Moussa, who is based in Syria.

Tension has increased along the Lebanese-Syrian border since Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April, ending a 29-year military presence, amid the crisis that followed the Feb. 14 assassination of ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

On Oct. 2, Syrian gunmen killed a Lebanese farmer in a suspected land dispute in the northeastern Lebanese border village of Aarsal.

In recent weeks, the Lebanese have alleged that pro-Syrian Palestinian guerrillas have brought weapons into this country with the aim of causing disturbances. The Palestinians have denied the accusations.

At a summit in Paris last week, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the smuggling of arms to Palestinian militants in Lebanon and discussed the disarmament of Palestinians living here.

The government and Palestinian factions have formed a committee to arrange for the eventual removal of Palestinian weapons outside refugee camps and for their regulation inside camps.

Saniora also said this week that preparations were underway to demarcate the Lebanese-Syrian border, the AP reports.


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