Lebanon’s army prepares to clear border area of IS militants

FILE -- In this June 19, 2016 file photo, a Lebanese army soldier takes his position overlooking an area controlled by the Islamic State group at the edge of the town of Arsal, in northeast Lebanon. Lebanon’s U.S.-backed military is gearing up for a long awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of IS militants from a remote corner of northeastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

 

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s U.S.-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border.

The campaign is seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists. It will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side, although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Bashar Assad’s government.

But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country. The army will likely use U.S. weapons, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.

Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk says there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.

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